Coal’s Road to Nowhere

In the tranquil, misty mountains of southwest Virginia, the coal industry is trying to build its very own road to nowhere. King Coal’s latest scheme is to try and take $2 billion of federal funds—our tax dollars—to build the Coalfields Expressway through rural Southwest Virginia. Coal companies plan to use mountaintop removal miningto flatten the area to make way for the road, while they keep the profits from the coal they extract. While the coal companies call it a road, local residents are calling it a taxpayer financed strip mine.

Virginians aren’t taking this news lying down, though. Last Friday, when an official comment period closed, more than 4,400 Virginians and 81,000 people beyond VA’s borders had submitted comments to the Federal Highway Administration in opposition to this project—more than 85,000 comments opposing this boondoggle. These tens of thousands of Americans know that the construction of this “Coalfields Expressway” won’t serve the public. The route was designed to help a coal company, Alpha Natural Resources, access coal reserves. To make matters worse, the road will not only cause pollution and destruction, but it also bypasses local communities and threatens to remove the through-traffic that local businesses depend on.

The controversial highway project would cut through southwestern Virginia, using eminent domain to relocate dozens of property owners while bypassing local business areas and burying at least 12 miles of streams.

Local residents assert that while the project is being billed as a highway project, in reality it’s a taxpayer financed strip mine that is likely to be exempt from all of the permitting requirements and other protections provided for communities and the environment by the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Action.

In addition to collecting comments, local residents organizing against the project recently testified at public hearings held in the Virginia towns of Wise and Vansant. Dozens of local residents turned out to oppose the project and the negative effects it would have on their community, water supply and local economy.

“We’re worried that this project is going to cost taxpayers an enormous amount of money while leaving Virginians with a toxic mess and miles of bare stripped land instead of a useful road,” said Marley Green, a Sierra Club organizer in Appalachia, Va. “We need both the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to take action to protect the health and safety of our communities.”

Already, $38 million in taxpayer funds were wasted on a cancelled portion of the highway. The total taxpayer price tag for the entire project is still unknown. The Sierra Club and Southern Environmental Law Center submitted comments opposing the project, together with our allies Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Appalachian Voices, Wise Energy for Virginia and CREDO Action.

We can’t let King Coal destroy our streams and our mountains. Appalachians have suffered enough at the hands of the coal industry. The Coalfields Expressway will only lead to more polluted water and destruction.

This project is poorly planned, a threat to local streams and rivers and a waste of tax payer dollars.

We urge the Federal Highway Administration to stand up for Appalachia, and complete a full study of the threats this road would have on local communities. There are smarter, more efficient ways to improve transportation options in southwest Virginia, and it’s crucial that we not rush into a giant gift to the coal  industry without considering all of the impacts and alternatives



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6 Responses to Coal’s Road to Nowhere

  1. Walt says:

    Where are all of the tree huggers? Why aren’t enviro’s concerned about the bugs and insects, their bats and streams, when it comes to highway construction projects?

    After all these same methods are used in surface mining, it seems to me you guy’s would be outraged that you tax dollars are destroying more streams than mining. I guess your ok with highways covering streams as long as it saves you a few minutes when you traveling from one town to another.

  2. Walt says:

    I’m surprised that no one is concerned about the damage to the environment caused by road construction? How many miles of streams have been covered up by road construction projects?

  3. Citizen Harry says:

    In case you didn’t notice, (and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to comment on the actual subject of the article, since there is no argument)… the article is about corruption in the coal industry and it’s death grip on bought out politicians, that happens to combine the subject of roads. But I’ll bite. No, I don’t like the idea of building new roads through nature. As a matter of fact, I have been doing all I can to stop an un-needed road from going in through a pristine forest in my state, because it’s not needed. Another wonderful result from NAFTA. Why would anyone bother spending half that budget, and revitalize existing roads and communities that have had their economies destroyed by Walmarts and 8 years of Bush Administration policies? Money. Power. Answer: good old fashioned “Walt” type thinking.

  4. Walt says:

    What article? lol, I never read the article, but let me guess, I bet it talks about how coal companies are stealing peoples land and keeping the coal and raking in huge profits. Did the article mention that the government was saving the taxpayers around 90 million dollars by having Alpha construct the road or that the property was acquired by the same procedures which are used during every other road project? I highly doubt it.

    The fact is there would be no protest if a coal company was not involved. The fact is over a hundred miles of roads have been built since environment groups began protesting against the mining industry and even though they use the same earth moving methods not one single time have these same environmental groups protested against a highway project. How do you classify a road as un-needed? If it does not benefit you is it un-needed? What exactly have you been doing to stop un-needed roads from being built?

    You want to talk about money and power you need to talk about Obama, he has done more in three and a half years to destroy our economy than anyone

  5. Citizen Harry says:

    So you admit you didn’t even read the article. Well, guess what, I didn’t read your whole comment. I quit right after you admitted not reading it. In terms of getting your point across, it’s probably not the best way to start a comment. Admitting your an idiot that is.

    • Walt says:

      Harry did you even read my first comment? Did I refer to the article in any way? No, I don’t think I did. My comments were directed to the similarities between surface mining and highway construction and how enviro’s were against mining but not road construction.

      Were my assumptions on the article correct?

      I still see that you are still the same ole Harry, calling names and avoiding the questions as usual.

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