THE LEGISLATURE'S interim committee studying complaints about blasting is getting precious little input from the coal industry, which won't even admit there is a problem.While three citizen groups have submitted a proposal to aid blasting victims, coal representatives have submitted nothing. One of them, Dan Miller of the West Virginia Mining and Reclamation Association, said the committee's request for solutions assumes there's a problem.House Government Organization Chairman Vicki Douglas, D-Berkeley, said she's "dismayed" that coal officials have failed to develop a proposal of their own.Her Senate counterpart, Ed Bowman, D-Hancock, is also miffed. "I kind of hear the industry saying, 'Look, the status quo is OK, and that's where it should remain.' I don't know if that's acceptable," he said.It certainly isn't acceptable. Blasting has caused numerous problems for homeowners: dry wells, cracked foundations, flyrock, dust.
The Legislature - which passed a controversial mitigation bill making it easier and cheaper for coal companies to fill in larger valleys - did not pass legislation that would protect homeowners from the increased blasting that will result. Instead, legislators agreed to study the issue and return with a recommendation for next session.So far, the only proposal to come out of this mirrors the bill introduced last time. And it is a good proposal.Companies involved in blasting would pay for pre-blast surveys of any structure within a mile of a site. Follow-up surveys would be conducted once a year. Blasting within 1,000 feet of a residence would no longer be allowed. And companies would have to prove that their explosions did not cause damage that appears in nearby dwellings.Miller and his cohort at the West Virginia Coal Association, Bill Raney, find this proposal "scary."Leaving residents at the mercy of coal companies which won't even acknowledge problems sounds scarier to us.