Residents Demand Transparency, New Jobs on Problem Strip Mine in Appalachia

Looney Ridge Letter Delivery 030

Pre-dawn letter delivery to strip mine gates in response to denial of citizen inspection

Appalachia, VA – In the pre-dawn rain, members of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) waited to deliver a citizen mine inspection request letter to workers at the foot of an A&G Coal Corp. surface mine in Appalachia, VA. The strip mine on Looney Ridge of Black Mountain, above the community of Inman, was the source of the boulder that killed three-year-old Jeremy Davidson 10 years ago today. The mine was recently cited for bond forfeiture by the Virginia Department of Mines Minerals and Energy. Local residents are concerned that the mine, and many others controlled by billionaire Jim Justice, continues to be out of compliance for required reclamation and reforestation.

The community group is asking that Jim Justice and the VA DMME allow for regular citizen mine inspections to ensure that Justice is in compliance with the law, and applying the best available reclamation techniques on operations like this one. The group has previously asked for citizen inspections of this mine, as allowed by SMCRA, but been denied.

The Wise County residents hoped to meet the morning shift at 5:30 this morning, before delivering the same mine inspection request to the DMME. By 7:00 AM, workers had still not arrived, and so the group left their letter behind a band of caution tape in front of the entrance. The letter can be found at JusticeToJustice.com, or below.

“I’m from Inman and we’re here today to deliver a letter to someone from the Justice Group,“ said Ben Hooper, member of SAMS. “They should be working here today as part of the deal worked out with the DMME for reclamation on Looney Ridge, where their bond was revoked, but apparently they’re not. We left a letter here at the entrance to the site, we’re hoping to get the attention of Mr. Jim Justice, to tell him that he needs to be here, working, cleaning up the mess he’s made, as he promised the DMME he would. We need these issues addressed, for the safety and health of the people living in these communities below these operations.

Justice’s operations across the region have fallen under scrutiny, including a $10 million dollar reclamation settlement announced August 19th in Kentucky, including $1.5 million in fines. In July it was revealed by the Louisville Courier-Journal that Justice companies had at least 266 pending surface mine violations in five states .

Jim Justice was recently handed down bond forfeiture requests by the VA DMME for failure to comply with reclamation requirements on four different Wise County mines. The group is demanding that Justice immediately put people to work reclaiming and reforesting these operations, using techniques prescribed by the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, and that citizens be allowed to monitor these activities to ensure independent verification of the work.

Jane Branham, Vice President of SAMS, shared “We came here, before daylight, to the gates of A&G’s operations, to deliver a message: Pay off your fines, pay your debts to workers, and clean up your mess, or get out of our community. These jobs are sitting idle, and people are not working. There’s opportunity to create lasting jobs, and a better future, if we clean up these strip jobs. There’s enormous potential for jobs in healing the land and sustainably using our natural resources. Justice wants more permits to create more devastation, and we want it to stop.”

According to a 2010 study by West Virginia-based Downstream Strategies, there is potential for up to 35,000 new jobs in the Central Appalachian region through the remediation of bond forfeiture sites, abandoned mine lands and acid mine drainage sites.

The letter delivery this morning is part of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards Justice to Justice campaign. The campaign aims to draw attention to Jim Justice’s legacy of violations and impacts to communities, and to push him to aid in the economic future of Central Appalachia by putting people to work healing the land that has been scarred by his surface operations.

***

References:

Three year old killed in 2004:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4489461

 

Bond forfeiture notices: http://www.roanoke.com/news/regulators-seek-funds-from-four-justice-coal-mines/article_d38dffc9-6f2d-5df8-9dd9-8cf532c9ab28.html

 

$10 million settlement:

http://www.courier-journal.com/story/tech/science/environment/2014/08/19/kentucky-regulators-settle-jim-justice-mining-violations/14287377/

 

266 violations in 5 states:

http://www.courier-journal.com/story/tech/science/environment/2014/07/30/beshear-political-supporter-faces-big-environmental-enforcement-actions-fines/13371809/

 

Appalachian Regional Regforestation Initiative Forest Reclamation Approach:

http://arri.osmre.gov/FRA/FRApproach.shtm

 

Downstream Strategies 2010 report: “Creating green jobs and economic diversification in Central Appalachia by reclaiming polluting coal mines”

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CB8QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.appalachiantransition.org%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2014%2F05%2FHansen-Essay-FINAL.pdf&ei=Msv0U6ylDtCYyAS_24HQCQ&usg=AFQjCNEXKSCP7atxw0iqs1E8FEqn_LOwqg&sig2=EiMYN2RM8lChAWe6dVDGbQ&bvm=bv.73231344,d.aWw

Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) is an organization of concerned community members and their allies who are working to stop the destruction of our communities by surface coal mining, to improve the quality of life in our area, and to help rebuild sustainable communities. We support safe and responsible underground mining and work for the diversification of our coalfield economies.

www.samsva.org

 

The Justice To Justice Campaign is a regional effort calling on Jim Justice to commit to supporting a bright, healthy future, a diverse economy, and fair treatment of workers across Central Appalachia.

www.JusticeToJustice.com

Citizen Mine Inspection Request Letter

Delivered 8/20/14

 

Justice Group operations across the region are facing cessation orders and violations from both state and federal agencies. We believe that this mine is in violation of SMCRA, the Clean Water Act and other statutes meant to protect human health and communities from the worst impacts of surface mining

We call on Jim Justice to immediately, settle outstanding debts to workers, settle fines and violations with regulatory agencies, and to put local people to work on these permits by beginning reclamation and reforestation activities.

Jim Justice’s operations have demonstrated an on going problem with maintaining full compliance of laws meant to protect communities, and state agencies have not done enough to reign in these problem sites.

We as SAMS call on Justice to voluntarily start cleaning up his mess, as a gesture of good faith, we would like to see you begin by granting us a citizen inspection that was denied to us last year when the Meg Lynn land permit on Looney Ridge was being renewed.    We would also like permission to test outfalls on this permit, as well as the Bearpen Hollow and Looney Ridge Surface mine permit, where you failed to turn in quarterly monitoring reports according NOV  JRJ0000710 as well NOV JRJ0000992.   We wish to verify for ourselves, the water quality from these ponds.

 

We are focusing on this operation today due to pending bond forfeitures, but we are generally concerned about all of your operations, and would like to set up a meeting with Jim Justice and Southern Coal leadership, to discuss our concerns.

 

If you wish to address our concerns feel free to contact us at our office at 276-565-6167, or via email:  samsva@gmail.com.

Sincerely

 

The Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards,

 

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