Ed Klein, along with Ed Dallison, Rodney Cork, and Dave Burr, attended Tuesday's meeting of the Wetzel County Commission to express concerns over long-wall mining in the Smithfield/Folsom areas. This is the second week in a row Klein has attended a commission meeting to express such concerns.
At last week's meeting, Klein stated that a representative from Michael Baker Jr. Incorporated, which Klein stated was being contracted by Consolidated Coal, came to his house and told him that if his water source was damaged in the mining process, the company would bring Klein his water in a tank or might possibly bring him city water. Klein states that the man gave the impression that "You can't fight us. We are too big."
Klein stated he had questioned the man and found out that with long-wall mining, "they just go back and forth, take the entire matter . . . " Klein stated that he responded by telling the representative that "this is the most arrogant thing I've ever heard in my entire life . . . You can forget this, and I can get me a lawyer and sue . . ." Klein said he told the gentleman that he was not going to take Klein's land "for some coal and destroy it." Klein alleges that Consolidated Coal is buying up pieces of land in the Smithfield area because they know the land is going to cave in after the long-wall mining process is completed. "I'm happy with my land," he stated, also saying he recommends the coal company consider pillar and post mining or using gas for mining processes.
According to the United Mine Workers of America website: (www.umwa.org), longwall mining currently accounts for approximately 31 percent of underground coal production. There are over 100 of these operations in the United States, most of them in Appalachia.
According to the UMWA, longwall mining is described as the following: "In longwall mining, a cutting head moves back and forth across a panel of coal about 800 feet in width and up to 7,000 feet in length. The cut coal falls onto a flexible conveyor for removal. Longwall mining is done under hydraulic roof supports (shields) that are advanced as the seam is cut. The roof in the mined out areas falls as the shields advance."
Klein stated that the long-wall mining is going to devalue everyone's property and "nobody at the time these leases were made 100 years ago could envision such technology could destroy surface, could destroy forests, sink roads, and people could lose their water." Klein said if the landowners would've known such things, they never would've sold it, definitely not at the prices they received for it "even 100 years ago."
Klein said everyone's water source "is going to be threatened." Furthermore, "Scott (Assessor Lemley) told me if you go out to Barracksville, you can see what happens when it happens . . . trees are bent . . . you wouldn't like it."
"When does it end?" Klein asked. "Do the mineral rights go to the center of the earth and to the magma? . . . They are buying up all pieces of land . . . They say nothing will happen, and I say 'Why are you buying all this land for?'"
Klein asked who would fill his water tank if he did in fact receive one. He also asked if the water would be pure, and added that if city water was put in, he would end up with a water bill.
"They are going to take the entire matter," Klein stated. "the whole thing . . . what's going to hold up Wetzel County? It's going to cave, then your tax base is destroyed."
"We aren't talking about a little piece of land," Klein stated. "Here in the paper, they are applying for a permit. You cannot read this with a magnifying glass. It's indecipherable. It's in the paper. You can't read it. You can't make out one word or one number."
"Listen, we are dealing with ruthless people here . . . If we don't band together to make them behave responsibly, we are going to regret it if we don't do something about it."
Klein said he already hired a gas and oil attorney. "He told me they don't have the right to disturb your land your water well." Klein said he was not going to roll over "for this." "I'm not going to allow it, because I'm right . . . I want them to stay within responsible behavior. (This) is motivated by greed and higher profits. If they use posts and beams, more people have jobs and it'll help our tax base. The only reason for a long-wall is the motivation of greed.
"I tell you what guys . . . we all got land and family. it doesn't belong to Consol. It belongs to us. If they want to take something off it, and they want to do it responsibly, what's wrong with that?" asked Klein.
On Tuesday, Klein returned to say he had spoken to a lawyer, Frank Duff of Wheeling, who specializes in oil and gas. Klein said that Duff looked up some case laws and said that homeowners have the right to have land propped up. Klein stated that he learned that land fights have been going on for 100 some years and every time the landowner has won. Klein stated that coal companies use two schools of thought: "Power perceived is power gained" and "divide and conquer."
Klein stated he had called the Department of Environmental Protection to voice concerns over the small map that had been in the local paper recently. The representative told Klein that the map was in fact too small and Consolidated Coal's legal notice would have to re-advertised. (See the new legal ad on page 6B of this week's Wetzel Chronicle.)
Klein stated that Duff, the oil and gas attorney, recommended that Klein seek the counsel of a coal attorney. Duff also gave Klein the name of a mine engineer, with whom Klein has been corresponding.
Klein stated that Consolidated Coal is doing "whatever they feel like doing," out in the Folsom/Smithfield area. "If you have any illusions about them caring about you, get it out of your head."
Klein said an injunction can be done to put the matter on hold, or a class-action lawsuit.
Dave Burr, who works at Dominion, stated that a pipeline had dropped 54 inches. This pipeline has been long-walled under it.
Assessor Lemley, who also attended Tuesday's meeting, stated that he has reviewed sales with Consolidated Coal and that the companies are paying out "huge amounts" for land.
Burr stated that some of his neighbors have already been bought out.
Klein stated he would be back next week for a further update, but recommended that everyone "band together and put this monster back in the box," stating "our geology leads to mine subsidence."
Commission President Don Mason asked Klein what he would do if he did get an injunction to stop the mineral extraction. Klein stated the company has two choices: use gas or not mine at all. Mason stated he would talk to the county's attorney.
"If we don't fight now, we may never get another chance," Klein stated.
Lynn Seay, director of media relations for Consol Energy, had the following statement: "CONSOL Energy's Robinson Run Mine conducted longwall mining in the eastern tip of Wetzel County between 2003 and 2007. The mining was approximately three miles northeast of Folsom. Robinson Run Mine will resume development mining in Wetzel County in 2017 and longwall operations are scheduled to begin mid-2020. As required by the West Virginia DEP, we will be notifying property owners in writing of the future mining. As part of this notification, they will be provided our land personnel contact information and we are prepared to work through any related land issues with the property owners."
According to CONSOL Energy's website, longwall mining is safer for workers. Also, subsidence caused by longwall mining is largely predictable, which allows for being planning. Finally, longwall mining recovers 100 percent of coal compared to around 90 percent when using the room and pillar method.