CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Residents of the Rush Creek area of Charleston are concerned about a coal mining company's plans to expand a mountaintop removal operation in their neighborhood.
Several dozen residents of Rush Creek and Mount Alpha Road turned out Thursday evening to voice their concerns and to question West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection officials about a permit application for the expansion.
Barney Frazier, a retired Charleston lawyer who has organized his neighbors to oppose the permit change, said he's worried approval of the project will bring more problems for his community.
"We're exposed to dust and vibrations from blasting, noise, bright lights at night," Frazier said. "Those things are just going to get worse."
Nearly a decade ago, Frazier got involved when Keystone Industries proposed a 375-acre mountaintop removal operation within sight of his home. The DEP approved the permit and Frazier and his neighbors appealed to the state Surface Mine Board.
The appeal was settled when the company agreed to carve out and not mine a "buffer zone," intended to block and protect the residents from at least some of the mining impacts.
Now, though, a new owner of the operation -- Revelation Energy LLC -- has asked the DEP to approve an amendment. The amendment would add more than 80 acres of "contour mining," allowing the company to get at another 650,000 tons of coal over the next two years.
The amendment does not propose mining in the exact area of the "buffer zone" previously agreed to, but Frazier and his neighbors argue that the proposal violates the intent of the deal: to protect an unmined barrier between the coal operation and their community.
Guy Branham, who lives across from Frazier, said he worries what other future plans Revelation Energy might have. The company operates under two state surface-mining permits in the Rush Creek area.
"Shouldn't we have the right to know what their plans are for the next 10 or 20 years?" Branham said Thursday evening. "How many amendments are they allowed? There's no end to it."
Friday morning, Jeff Hoops, CEO of Revelation Energy, refused to answer any questions about its operations or the company's permit application.