West Virginia: Wild and WINDerful!

Our friends at Coal River Mountain Watch have been fighting to save their mountain from being decapitated by Massey Energy Co. to mine coal.  Through their teriffic Coal River Wind project, they've been able to show that there is a clean, renewable energy alternative to blasting away the mountain and burning its dirty coal.  Alas, West Virginia's governor seems disinterested at best in supporting the cause to save this and other Appalachian mountains from destruction by the coal industry.

What in the world is Gov. Manchin thinking? This is a no-brainer question:  Is it better to have a fully intact 400 million-year-old mountain or this?

Of course, the constant cry of coal companies is economic development.  Simply put, they insist that mining creates jobs -- something hard to come by in an economically depressed state like West Virginia -- and they believe that concern trumps all others.

Well, a brand new study commissioned by Coal River Mountain Watch takes the wind out of that argument -- literally!

The economic impact report shows that a wind farm along the ridges of Coal River Mountain would provide more jobs and tax revenues than Massey's planned mountaintop removal operation.  And, of course, erecting wind turbines on top of the mountain will be much safer and healthier for the environmental and local communities than strip mining.

The report's key findings estimate a much bigger job boom from wind power than coal mining:

  • Mining the mountain could produce nearly 200 direct jobs (and several hundred indirect jobs), but those jobs would last only as long as the coal mining (which is expected to take 17 years).
  • Construction of a windmill operation would generate more than 275 temporary construction jobs, and afterwards create 40 direct (and more than 30 indirect) jobs that could last indefinitely.
  • Over time, the windmill project would generate 28% more jobs than the mountaintop removal mining. (In addition, the wind project could sprout a long-term local industry building wind turbines, towers and blades -- leading to three times more jobs than the mountaintop mine.)

According to the report, the wind project would provide more than $1.7 million in annual property taxes to the county -- compared to a paltry $36,000 per year in coal severance taxes from the mining. 

Aside from these economic benefits, the study estimates that mountaintop mining Coal River Mountain would cost the community $30.5 million per year in excess deaths from mining-related pollution, as well as $36 million per year in water pollution, harm to fish and wildlife, and damage to land and buildings.

The Charleston Gazette quotes local resident and leading activist Lorelei Scarbro:  "This report confirms what we've been saying all along: That developing a wind farm on Coal River Mountain is the best way to diversify the local economy."  

Bingo!  The numbers add up to a clear choice:

On the one hand, construction of 220 wind turbines on Coal River Mountain could power 150,000 homes while preserving the mountain.  Or, Massey's planned 6,000-acre mine would level the mountain and obliterate its natural resources -- including diverse forests, plentiful wildlife and pristine waterways -- leaving local communities with nothing but more poverty and suffering.

Seems like an easy choice to make, doesn't it?