The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


February 7, 2009

Proposed wind project: It’s not one industry against another

In similar fashion as the Raleigh County Commission, the Jan. 8 Register-Herald editorial either chose to ignore the true purpose of the Coal River Mountain wind campaign or missed the point completely.

For the past 10 months, the wind campaign has pursued the development of a utility-scale wind farm on Coal River Mountain in the west end of Raleigh County as an economically viable alternative to a 6,450-acre mountaintop removal mining site proposed by Massey Energy.

In January, aided by a recent Downstream Strategies study showing that wind is the better economic land use option for Coal River Mountain, Coal River Mountain Watch asked the commission to stand behind wind power on this one mountain, and that the county take a hard look at the potential for developing a local wind industry, given that such an industry would provide greater and more stable jobs and tax revenue to the county and its citizens.

This request is not a request to “pit one industry against the other.” It is a request to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of two plans for the development of Coal River Mountain and make the best choice for the people of Raleigh County. This is what “working together” really means. It means mining the coal underground and preserving the ridges for wind development if it has been shown, as it has on Coal River Mountain, that wind is a viable and better option.

Available data show that Raleigh County has less than 20 years of recoverable coal left, that mining jobs have declined by 1,600 since 1983 and that county-level coal production peaked in 1997. For Coal River Mountain, the annual tax revenues with wind would exceed those from the proposed mountaintop removal mining by $1.7 million per year, which is more than the county received from all coal severance taxes in the entire year leading up to last quarter.

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