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A Community & Strip Mining


Update: lawsuits, possible new location for school
Coal Dust Lawsuit
A class action lawsuit against Massey, still pending scheduling, alleges that Massey caused students at Marsh Fork to breathe coal dust, causing health problems. The Williamson, W.Va.-based Thompson Barney law firm seeks for Massey to pay to relocate the school to another location in the community and provide lifetime medical monitoring for graduates.
 
Silo Lawsuit
The West Virginia Supreme Court said in July that Massey could build the second silo at their Goals Coal Prep Plant, right next to the school. There is zero likelihood of this being appealed, according to the Appalachian Center for the Economy & the Environment, whose director Joe Lovett filed the suit on behalf of Coal River Mountain Watch.  Because it was solely a state laws matter, it is not appeal-able to the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
New School
The Raleigh County Board of Education voted 3-0 on October 13 to request $7.5 million from the School Building Authority to relocate Marsh Fork Elementary to a new location. Two people abstained from the vote. Rick Snuffer, president of the Board of Education, told the Beckley Register-Herald “I think the time is right to once and for all build a new school down there. There's been a lot of controversy, both pro and con, but I just think it's time we move on the project.”
 
In more from the same article, “[Snuffer] believed a new school is much deserved as well as needed in the Coal River area, which he says, through coal taxes, produces millions in revenue for the state. 'We haven’t been able to serve them,' he said of the residents. 'All we have done is close their schools (Marsh Fork High School), and I think it would really be a shot in the arm for the community to give them a new school they would be proud of.'”
 
Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has signaled his company has looked at potential sites for the new school and may provide $1.5 million to purchase and prepare the site.
 
Six days later, an Associated Press article quoted School Building Authority Executive Director Mark Anthony Manchin: “As it sets today, there are no guarantees this project will be funded unless we can find some major health and safety issues.” According to the article, “Manchin said the SBA will review environmental concerns at Marsh Fork, but the agency's reviews focus on structural, not environmental deficiencies.
 
“Also, the SBA expects to have just $72 million for projects when it makes awards next spring. It already has requests totaling $247 million, [Manchin] said.” One other obstacle could be that Raleigh County requested the SBA cover 100 percent of the replacement cost because the SBA prefers to fund projects that receive county underwriting for at least 50 percent of the cost.