A Raleigh County man ended his sit-in at the Capitol on Tuesday after Gov. Joe Manchin agreed to try to move his granddaughter's elementary school away from an expanding Massey Energy operation.Ed Wiley, 47, of Rock Creek, promised he would be back if Manchin did not take action."I feel he's going to do something," Wiley said. "He knows I'm prepared to come back."Manchin said that he would do "everything humanly possible" to ensure that the students are safe."We're hoping to bring all sides together," Manchin said. "We're looking at every option."The governor, a grandfather of six, said he did not know if he would want his grandchildren to attend Marsh Fork Elementary School."I don't know enough," Manchin said. "I haven't been there. I don't know enough about the site."Wiley's 11-year-old granddaughter, Kayla, attends Marsh Fork Elementary near Sundial.Last week, the DEP renewed a permit for Massey subsidiary Goals Coal Co.'s Shumate impoundment. The 385-foot-high dam can hold up to 2.8 billion gallons of liquid coal waste.
At the same time, DEP Secretary Stephanie Timmermeyer approved a new permit and permit revision to allow Goals Coal to build a new, 168-foot-tall coal silo just 260 feet from the school.Timmermeyer approved the permits just nine days after Manchin promised to investigate citizens concerns about the operation's proximity to the school.After the DEP action, residents and activists from the group Coal River Mountain Watch blasted Manchin for not stepping in.On Tuesday morning, Wiley took a seat on the Capitol's north steps and vowed not to leave until the governor agreed to do something.Within a few hours, Manchin in-house lawyer Carte Goodwin came out and asked Wiley to meet inside the governor's office.
During the meeting, Manchin promised to meet with state and local education officials today to explore relocating the school.
Manchin also apparently scheduled for Thursday a previously promised meeting with residents and various regulatory agencies.Then, the governor reluctantly joined Wiley to announce the agreement at an impromptu news conference on the Capitol porch."He did not want to come out and do the thing on the TV," Wiley said. "But I told him I couldn't leave this property unless he did."Manchin said that he has not directed DEP to revisit its decision to issue the Massey permits. "We can all sit here and second-guess," Manchin said.Still, the governor said that Thursday's meeting with regulators would give his staff a chance "to make sure they have done what they were supposed to do."I want to make sure that they have all done that," Manchin said.
But, the governor and top aides continued to insist that Manchin would not now - or ever - get directly involved in specific mining or other environmental permits."We trust the people we appointed and the experts who deal with these issues every day," said Lara Ramsburg, the governor's spokeswoman."The permit process is not something that the governor should say, 'Yes, move forward with this one; no, don't move forward with that one,'" Ramsburg said."Whether a permit meets requirements is not up to us to decide. We are not educated in that area."Katharine Kenny, a Massey spokeswoman, has not returned calls from the Gazette about the Marsh Fork issue.On Tuesday, Kenny told The Associated Press that she blamed the protests on misinformation."We continue to believe that we conduct our mining operations in accordance with all the regulatory requirements," Kenny told the AP.