Charleston Gazette - Op/Ed by Roger Nicholson - November 30, 2009

The Gazette's coverage of the meeting between Gov. Manchin and other governmental leaders and some coal industry officials on Nov. 10 was noteworthy in a couple of respects.

First, anti-mining activist Judy Bonds candidly revealed the true extreme agenda of groups like the Sierra Club and the Coal River Mountain Watch. Bonds expressly stated the desire for a complete federal takeover of our state government, when she said, "the federal government needs to come in and take over the state of West Virginia, all the way from the governor to the dog catcher."

It is rare indeed when anti-mining advocates reveal their true aims, and Bonds' candid comment is quite telling. Unfortunately, most of the pronouncements from anti-mining groups twist the facts and weave tales designed to lure high-profile liberal foundations and Hollywood stars to join their single-minded pursuit.

Oft-repeated myths propounded by these groups include:

·  Claims that neither they nor the Obama EPA seek to ban underground mining. In truth, the EPA has targeted 79 permits for "enhanced review" and potential veto, including deep-mining related permits. Moreover, environmental activists are stridently contesting a deep-mining permit in Northern West Virginia that would create 300 new jobs.

·  Claims that wind projects can effectively replace coal mining jobs. To the contrary, each surface mining operation will typically employ more than 100 people for several years at wages exceeding $60,000 annually with excellent benefit packages. Wind projects involve short-term construction work followed by a handful of maintenance workers.

·  Claims that coal currently being surface-mined can be mined by underground methods instead. One need only read Gene Kitts' excellent post, "Why We Surface Mine" on the Coal Tattoo blog (link online: http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2009/07/23/special-guest-blog-exclusive-why-surface-mine/ ), to understand the economic foundation for surface mining.

The other interesting point from the Gazette's coverage was Congressman Nick Rahall's continued insistence that Obama's EPA is just "doing its job." EPA's actions (and inaction) belie Rep. Rahall's stubbornly held view.

Consider the following:

·  In the spring of 2009, the EPA publicly stated that there was no moratorium on the issuance of Section 404 permits generally necessary for both surface- and deep-mining operations. Since that announcement, a grand total of two individual permits have been issued by the Army Corps of Engineers in West Virginia. The EPA may not call this a moratorium, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck... well, you know the rest.

·  In June 2009, EPA announced the framework for a new "enhanced review" of existing permit applications and promised timely review. Since then, as of Nov. 9, enhanced review has begun on only five of the 79 permits.

At that rate, it will take years for affected coal producers to receive feedback on their permits.

·  EPA is attempting to revoke a long-issued Arch Coal permit for an active surface-mining operation. That permit underwent a multi-year environmental impact study, which EPA then accepted, but the government now seeks to renege on its prior approval.

·  EPA's "job" appears to be implementing the goals of the Pelosi and Reid wing of the Democratic Party to end mining and consumption of coal.

Any business, particularly a capital-intensive one, needs to know the rules and have the assurance that those rules won't change day-to-day. Ken Ward says there's no permitting crisis; he's wrong. Just because the large publicly traded companies have been able to adjust their business plans to avoid major disruptions doesn't mean a crisis does not exist. Ask the smaller independent operators, who typically have no choice but to shut down when their next permit is blocked, if there's a crisis in the coalfields.

If a bridge is out, you don't drive full-speed in the hope that the bridge will be there when you arrive. The bridge is out. Those of us who rely on the coal industry for our livelihoods, our electricity and our quality of life should demand that our government agencies and our elected officials heed our concerns.

BECKLEY -- The Exhibition Coal Mine will present the annual "Appalachian Coal Town Christmas."

It is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 4 and Saturday, Dec. 5.

The Coal Mine has been transformed into an old town Christmas setting. The festival will consist of traditional decorations in the coal camp houses and church.

There will be Christmas caroling, food vendors and a visit from Santa Claus.

Visitors can also head underground for a Christmas themed coal mine tour.

"It is absolutely beautiful and you can't imagine until you come and see it yourself. It's just lit with different color lights," said Renda Morris, organizer of the festival.

The Exhibition Coal Mine will be open each Friday and Saturday through the Dec. 19 from 5 to 9 p.m..