Mountaintop Removal Update

Mar 11, 2018

This Thursday, March 15, we have a site visit scheduled regarding the latest revision to the Collins Fork mountaintop removal site at the head of Workman’s Creek and McDowell Branch on Coal River Mountain. The revision would allow Alpha Natural Resources to delay reclamation and also bury their used tires on the site. They want to keep it unreclaimed as a "start-up area" with a maintenance area, fuel storage, and coal stockpile to "serve other permits in the area." We’ll post more after the site visit and before the “informal conference” (public hearing) where residents can state their opposition to the renewal.


Dumps Are Higher and Better Use of Mountains?

Feb 17, 2018

The coal company demolishing Coal River Mountain, Alpha Natural Resources, has proposed a revision to one of their permits in order to delay reclamation and also bury their used tires. Their justification for the revision is essentially that complying with the regulations will inconvenience their operations. Rather than reclaim part of one permit, they want to keep it unreclaimed as a "start-up area" with a maintenance area, "fuel farm" (whatever that is), and coal stockpile to "serve other permits in the area." There's no justification given for the tire dump, but we figure it's probably just cheaper to bury their tires than to recycle them. Inspectors won't be digging them up to make sure there's nothing else buried, like batteries, used oil, trash, etc, so all that can easily be swept under the rug that is supposed to be a higher and better use of the mountain. The comment period to West Virginia Dept. of Environmental Protection ends Feb. 21 (Wednesday). Coal River Mountain Watch has requested an informal conference (public hearing) and site visit as allowed by law and submitted the comments below urging denial of this bad idea. Please consider sending comments to WVDEP to deny the revision, including the applicant and permit number below, keeping in mind the WVDEP is required to send your comments and contact info to the coal company. We'll also be running a petition soon to gather comments to deliver at the informal conference. Thanks!   Sent to Dustin Johnson, WVDEP Permit Supervisor at

Dear Mr. Johnson,
Coal River Mountain Watch OBJECTS to proposed revision 7 to Republic Energy surface mine permit S300208. In accordance with WV Code 22-3-20, we request an informal conference at a time and location convenient to the residents of Clear Creek. We request a site visit for the purpose of gathering information relevant to the proceeding no later than 10 days prior to the informal conference.
For the following reasons and more which will be elaborated at the informal conference, we urge that you DENY this application:
-The applicant currently has unabated permit violations on this permit (S300208) and their neighboring permits on this complex.
-The applicant is presently subject to a consent order at the contiguous permit S301712 for a pattern of violations for sediment control. The applicant has shown repeatedly that they cannot comply with something as basic as maintaining a ditch; they cannot be trusted to comply with this permit revision.
-The applicant has demonstrated a second pattern of violations at contiguous permit S301712 for method of operations. Two of those violations were for failure to comply with their reclamation plan, "corrected" by WVDEP granting a contemporaneous reclamation variance. In that permit, the applicant was apparently unable to comply with regulations and unable to plan for the actual conditions of the site, as if the steep slopes, narrow ridges, and ratio of overburden to coal seam were somehow new and unforeseeable conditions.

On The Big Screen and on the Road

Feb 10, 2018

See Walk on the Mountain in the Banff Film Festival World Tour. The description of this 19-minute film by 3 Point Productions says, “Junior Walk, an anti-coal activist in southern West Virginia, takes us through his battle with mining companies and why he believes mountaintop removal methods should stop immediately on this land he loves.” Watch the promo clip here The films on tour are here and the US dates and locations are here. Films shown vary by venue. Since Walk on the Mountain won’t be shown at all venues, you might check with a venue near you to see if it’s in their lineup.  If you can’t catch him on the big screen, maybe you can… See Junior Walk in person. He’s on a speaking tour coast to coast this spring with Post Landfill Action Network’s Point of Intervention College Road Tour. Check for a location near you here. Junior will be at several of the stops, but not all. Or you can pay us a visit and get a tour of the area.


Mountain Music and Medicinals (and Tacos)

Jan 31, 2018

On January 25 we hosted a free supper, live music from Tug River Troubadour Glen Simpson, and a workshop. Emily Lachniet of Appalachian Sustainable Development and Tanner Filyaw with Rural Action spoke about resources to help folks earn money in the sustainable harvest and cultivation of ginseng, yellow root, and other medicinal herbs. We had a good turnout, informative discussion, and a great time. Some folks drove two or three hours to get here. Follow us to keep updated for future cultural and community events at the Judy Bonds Center for Appalachian Preservation.


Senate Intern Gets STEEP Tour

Jan 31, 2018

As part of our Show and Tell Energy Education and Policy (STEEP)  project, we hosted a US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee intern conducting research to better understand the attitudes of Appalachians on renewable energy. He enjoyed our Mountain Music and Medicinals event, met and visited local residents, and got a tour of the area. He saw mountaintop removal up close, the old Marsh Fork Elementary School next door to an Alpha Natural Resources preparation plant and 2.8-billion-gallon toxic sludge dam, the Upper Big Branch site and memorials to the 29 miners killed there, and communities where the property values have decreased by over 90%.


Thanks and farewell to our January intern from Oberlin College

Jan 30, 2018

For years, Coal River Mountain Watch's interns have provided valuable work supporting our mission. Their initiative, ideas, and projects are often incorporated into our work to end mountaintop removal, improve the quality of life in our area, and help rebuild sustainable communities. This January, we were fortunate to host Leah from Oberlin College, who tested water, did map work, cleaned up with the Tadpole Project, generally helped out, and participated with events such as Mountain Music and Medicinals. Thanks Leah, and we hope you can come back soon! Leah says: I’m an Environmental Studies and Geology student at Oberlin College and am originally from Jacksonville, FL. I decided to spend my January term with Coal River Mountain Watch after learning about the organization while completing my final GIS project about changes in geomorphology due to mountaintop removal in the Coal River Watershed.This month with CRMW has been a fantastic experience, as I have gotten to learn more about the injustices of surface mining by spending time in the community and helping with mine monitoring missions. Also I conducted some baseline water testing around Coal River Mountain to have some preliminary data of healthy streams before mining begins. CRMW has done some great work exposing the water issues in the community and I am thankful for the opportunity to contribute to this work while learning about the problems with heavy metals and acid mine drainage in the area.Seeing the destruction of these beautiful mountains first-hand has been really eye opening. It was one thing to do research on the topic from the comfort of a classroom, but being here and seeing the coal industry’s irrefutable dominance over these communities is a whole other experience. I admire CRMW for all the difficult work they have done to better their community and save their mountains!


Mountaintop Removal Violations Just Keep Piling Up

Jan 24, 2018

Alpha Natural Resources subsidiary Republic Energy, the coal company doing most of the mountaintop removal on Coal River Mountain, has chalked up three new permit violations so far in January. These are the 11th violation at the Middle Ridge site and the 2nd and 3rd at the Long Ridge site, which the WVDEP approved just over a year ago. The most recent "method of operations" violation at Middle Ridge is the third of its kind within a year, and should trigger another show cause proceeding for a pattern of violations. The site is currently operating under a consent order for a pattern of violations for sediment control.