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2 Nicholas officials support valley fills

If coal companies must stop using such mining methods as mountaintop removal and valley fills, a Nicholas County Commissioner said Friday, he wants to see airport construction, highway construction and superstore construction stopped, too.Earlier this month, Spurgeon Hinkle and Commissioner Birl O'Dell signed a resolution supporting Alex Energy Inc. Commissioner Tom Blankenship did not sign the resolution.At a commission meeting, Sam Kitts, president of Nicholas Energy, a subsidiary of A.T. Massey Coal Co., explained to commissioners that he wants to mine 1,200 acres outside Gilboa, along W.Va. 39, through another company called Alex Energy.For now, though, the staff of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a general objection to the water permit for the operation."All I want is to look and be fair," Hinkle said.The resolution states the commissioners will let the governor and the appropriate regulating agencies know that they support the mines.Hinkle said the coal company is willing to invest $90 million in the operation without asking for state funds. He pointed out that many other projects involving mountaintop removal and valley fills have included taxpayer dollars.The mine would also employ more than 200 miners, he said.Hinkle also spoke in Logan County a week ago in support of mountaintop removal."I'm on record," he said.
"The facts of the matter being that the mining industry is our state's biggest tax revenue, and counties continually reap the benefits each time they receive partnership grants or grants from the Legislative Digest," Hinkle said at the Logan County rally.Construction of Yeager Airport in Charleston was one of the largest mountaintop removal and valley fill projects of its kind when it was built, he said.He also said construction along U.S. 19 produced a valley fill up to 100 feet deep and 4,428 feet long at Powells Mountain.The site that Kitts wants to work was mined previously for 10 years, and it is in an isolated area, Hinkle said.
Commissioner O'Dell, who signed the resolution, and Commissioner Blankenship, who did not sign, could not be reached for comment.A.T. Massey officials have offered the Nicholas County Commission the property, totaling 1,200 to 1,500 acres, for future county use once the mining project is finished.The valley fill would affect two streams, Robinson Fork and Spruce Run.The company's plans call for 1,805 acres of valley fill to cover 4 miles of stream."It's not as detrimental as environmentalists will tell you," Hinkle said. 
To contact staff writer Susan Williams, call 779-9367.
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