Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 7, 2012

War on coal King Coal Highway latest casualty


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Washington’s war on coal has claimed another casualty. This time 145 workers of Consol Energy are being laid off because of a dispute over permits for surface mining related to the King Coal Highway.

Thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency, not only are more miners now being laid off, but a critical public-private partnership that would allow for the creation of a road bed through the extraction of coal is being held up. Shameful!

The Associated Press reported last week that the Pittsburgh-based coal producer plans to idle its Miller Creek operations in Mingo County, which include Wiley Surface Mine, Wiley Creek Surface Mine, Minway Surface Mine, Minway Preparation Plant and Miller Creek Administration Group.

Consol had sought EPA permits to redirect the Mingo County operations to mine land that will ultimately become a five-mile stretch of the King Coal Highway.

However, the EPA raised a number of concerns about the Buffalo Mountain mining operation, including its planned burial of several area streams. To date only one of two permits needed for the project has been approved. However, the miners can’t begin to work on the project until both permits are approved. As a result, 145 miners are now being laid off. More troubling job losses at a time when new jobs are so desperately needed in our region and nation.

The so-called public-private partnership the EPA is holding up would allow coal operators to remove coal while land is smoothed out for the actual road bed. It is a practice that has been successfully utilized in neighboring Virginia on the Coalfields Expressway.

Area lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., are challenging the EPA’s ruling.

Manchin said the EPA is intentionally delaying the needed permit that would create jobs and valuable infrastructure in southern West Virginia.

We can’t say we are surprised by the EPA’s latest salvo against coal. But now not only are mining jobs being lost, but also our future four-lane infrastructure is being threatened by the over reach of the EPA.

Granted, the five-mile stretch of the King Coal Highway in question in Mingo County isn’t going to help with our bridge to nowhere in Bluefield. But it is still critical that the future four-lane corridor be completed — all 90 miles of it from Bluefield to Williamson. And that includes the Mingo County segment.

If future road beds of the King Coal Highway can be constructed through the extraction of coal, the process should be allowed. After all, there are few things more capable of creating jobs and economic development than four-lane corridors. And the King Coal Highway is desperately needed in southern West Virginia.

Area lawmakers must do everything in their power to fight this latest EPA over reach.