Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Communities fade away as residents choose money over living with mountaintop coal mines

Some Appalachians living near mountaintop removal mines have been vocal in their opposition of the practice, but some other communities near such operations have quietly faded away, partly because coal companies have bought residents out. Almost all that remains of Lindytown, W.Va., is the home, above, of 85-year-old Quinne Richmond. (NYT photo by Nicole Bengiveno)

"A couple of years ago, a subsidiary of Massey Energy, which owns a sprawling mine operation behind and above the Richmond home, bought up Lindytown," columnist Dan Barry of The New York Times writes. "Many of its residents signed Massey-proffered documents in which they also agreed not to sue, testify against, seek inspection of or ''make adverse comment' about coal-mining operations in the vicinity."

Quinne's husband Lawrence, who died recently, said he chose to stay because he feared moving would upset his wife, who has Alzheimer's. Instead, Lawrence and his son Roger signed easements granting Massey certain rights over their properties for $25,000 each and a promise they would not make adverse comments against the company. Roger now describes that deal as "hush money." Massey says Lindytown residents contacted the company about buying their property and "the entire mine plan could have been legally mined without the purchase of these homes."

James Smith, a former Lindytown resident, says many residents only wanted to move because of the mountaintop mining operation above them.  "You might as well take the money and get rid of your torment," he told Barry, adding that he received more than $300,000 for his property. "After they destroyed our place, they done us a favor and bought it." Roger Richmond noted "Some of them were tired of fighting it. Of having to put up with all the dust. Plus, you couldn’t get out into the hills the way you used to." (Read more)

1 comment:

Betty Dotson-Lewis said...

I don't mean this is a disrespectful way, but why are people surprised that this is happening - coal companies buying out residents so they can take off the mountain.

Many of the residents of the coal fields simply don't have a chance against these coal companies and I suppose they take this way out which may benefit them most-money.

I read over and over of people speaking out about mountaintop removal and that is great but until the people (politicians) decide to do something about mountaintop removal, it's like singing to the choir (or whatever that popular saying is).

Coal is KING in the West Virginia coalfields. Just take a look at popular coaches like Don Nehlen actively participating in Friends of Coal. There's nothing wrong with supporting coal and coal mining but it is usually the entire package including mountaintop removal.

Mountaintop removal and strip mining were pretty much topics employees in the public sector kept quiet about if you wanted to keep your job at least where I worked.