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Editorial: Good neighbor?

ARCH Coal officials said the largest mountaintop removal permit in state history should be issued because they agreed to stringent blasting rules.

"I think if you will review the permit, you will find that, in many instances, we've exceeded the requirements of the regulations," said Hobet Mining's chief engineer during a public hearing a year ago.

But now that the company has blackmailed the state into issuing the permit, using the jobs of 400 miners as leverage, it is appealing the permit because, you guessed it, the blasting rules are too stringent.

The permit would restrict blasting within 1,500 feet of any occupied structure and would limit the size of blasts within 2,000 feet. Arch lawyers even have the gall to argue that the restrictions, by blocking access to certain coal reserves, constitute "takings," for which taxpayers should compensate Arch.

So the state is supposed to pay Arch unless the company is allowed to blast as close as it wants to homes, businesses and churches? Ridiculous.

The state's inadequate blasting rules have let the company get away with "takings" of its own. It has taken peace, quiet and in some cases drinkable water from its neighbors. Current regulations make it difficult for them to win compensation from the coal giant.

Even a task force assigned by Gov. Underwood, an ardent supporter of coal and mountaintop-removal mining, found that not enough is being done to blunt the impact of blasting on nearby residents and communities.

Arch can't have it both ways. It cannot tout itself as a good neighbor, and then appeal reasonable restrictions on blasting near dwellings.

Actually, Arch's "good neighbor" claims become more laughable every day. The coal company recently settled a $15 million claim for ruining access to coal seams leased by Mingo County coal operator Buck Harless.

Arch apparently isn't even that good of a neighbor to fellow coal operators, much less ordinary citizens.

The Legislature should look at revising the blasting laws to ensure that all coal companies, as well as those in other industries that do massive blasting, cannot ruin the lives or homes of their neighbors.


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