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Hundreds gather in Madison to support W.Va. coal and miners

Ronni Lynn Wood, Scott High School
A rescue chamber, which is sent down when men become trapped in mines, is displayed outside of a recent pro-coal rally in Boone County.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Coal people are the proudest, most hard-working, professional people I've ever seen in my life," said Sen. Art Kirkendoll, D-Logan, at a pro-coal forum in Madison on Aug. 20.

The rally was held in support of coal mining jobs and keeping coal mines open. More than 200 people attended. Several keynote speakers were there to show their support of coal and educate the community about the "war on coal."

"If you think there's not a war on coal, you're wrong," said Kristi Jeffrey, an environmental engineer at Alpha Natural Resources. "I'm not gonna take it; I'm just not."

"We've been in a war here in Boone, Mingo and Logan County for 12 years on surface mining. Our issues are not technical in nature. If these were technical issues we were being confronted with today, we'd be over them by now. This is a political issue," said Chris Hamilton, West Virginia Coal Association Senior Vice President.

"Coal just means so much to so many people within our state. It's one of the states biggest industrial drivers. People all over the state benefit from coal mines in southern West Virginia," he continued.

"The 400 miners at the 35th largest mine in America produce nearly as much energy output in one day as all the nation's windmills. Coal accounts for more than 135,000 jobs," Jeffrey noted in her speech.

"The limits that the EPA is fighting us on are about the health of bugs and fishes, not people," she added.

In regards to the after-effects of surface mining, she said, "They don't wanna show the after pictures because [the area] is beautiful."

A lot of things not related to coal require surface mining permits as well. For instance, if someone would want to build a store or move a stream on a mountain, he or she would have to get a surface mining permit before doing anything. A mining permit now takes three years prep time and $750,000.

"You have to get a surface mine permit for an underground mine also," pointed out Kem Abraham of Empire Consulting Services, LLC.

"[With reclamation] we analyze what we take out, so that what we put back is actually better than what was there before. We make sure we can get grass to grow," he added.

Boone County House of Delegates candidate Josh Nelson said, "There's a lot of people that want to end our way of life. I've got news for them: we're mountaineers, and were better than that."


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