Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

February 10, 2013

Highway will serve as vital lifeline

The recent news that the Sierra Club, a national environmental group, ranked the Virginia Coalfields Expressway as one of the “50 Worst Transportation Projects in America”  — due to the coal synergy partnership used to construct the highway — came as no surprise. About five years ago, the Sierra magazine featured the article “Killing Coal.” Activists blatantly admitted to using every tool to dethrone what they call “America’s dirtiest fuel.”

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Here is the other side. The Coalfields Expressway, when completed, will become a vital lifeline to this part of Appalachia and the project may provide some ease of access to mining operations. However, the people that are calling coal “America’s dirtiest fuel” fail to realize much of the coal being extracted is not used strictly as fuel. It is metallurgical grade coal and is used to produce steel and other metals. In this area, our roads provide a means to transport coal via trucks to a railhead. In many situations, coal is loaded directly onto rail cars and is never hauled by truck on a public highway.

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The thin corridor that would be occupied by the expressway is minuscule in comparison to the vast reserves and adjacent undeveloped areas. The coal reserves extracted directly, with the footprint or the right of way, would not be significant. However, constructing a roadway rather than reclaiming the area as a forest would benefit the region economically and socially. The expressway would also serve as a lifeline to emergency medical care and save lives. It would also save vast quantities of motor fuel and thousands of hours travel time for all users. The Sierra Club claims the road is being “built for the express purpose of fossil fuel development.” That simply is not the truth.

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Incidentally, the Sierra Club is located  in San Francisco, Calif. Has it not occurred to them that San Francisco has been destroyed by development? Has it not occurred to the Sierra Club that San Francisco produces tons of pollution? The city is ruining the San Francisco Bay. The city is plagued with noise pollution, air pollution, water pollution and other problems.

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The County Commission of Mercer County will begin work on the fiscal year 2013-14 budget on March 1. The budget will be submitted to the state auditor’s office for review and approval.

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We often fail to recognize an important part of our city. There are a number of businesses thriving along Bluefield Avenue. These businesses are an important part of Bluefield’s business community. Many of those businesses are located in a part of the town that was once blighted, had unsafe and substandard buildings by today’s standard and was razed as part of a 1960s urban renewal project. One of my favorites is the Dairy Queen on Bluefield Avenue, a landmark for more than half a century.

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Congressman Nick Rahall is upset about the U.S. Postal Service discontinuing six-day mail delivery service beginning in August of this year. The congressman said, “The postal service cannot circumvent the will of the Congress, which has been explicit in requiring the continuance of six-day mail delivery service for the last 30 years. Whatever basis the postal service is claiming to discontinue Saturday mail delivery, it runs counter to the spirit and letter of the law, and I intend to press hard to ensure that the postal service abides by the law. The postal service needs to look at other ways to balance its books rather than cutting off rural customers and undermining its public service obligations.”

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If the post office refuses to deliver mail on Saturdays, there will be more mail to deliver on Monday or sometime during the next week. At least we won’t receive any bad news in the mail on Saturdays and not be able to do anything about it until Monday.

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There you have it, a few comments on items of interest to the area. We did enjoy a day or two of milder weather last week. The weather man has made plans for it to turn cold again. Stay warm and have a blue sky day.

Wilson Butt, a resident of Bluefield, is a retired Department of Highways official.

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