Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...
By Stephen Lee
A large coal patch with historic resonance for West Virginia miners was declared a historic place, taking some 3,000 acres of coal out of play for mountaintop removal mining.
The decision by the keeper of the National Register of Historic Places wraps up a decade-long legal tussle over Blair Mountain. Up to 100 miners and Army soldiers were killed at the site in a union skirmish in 1921. The Battle of Blair Mountain remains the largest armed labor conflict in U.S. history and has become a cultural touchstone for the union movement.
Arch Coal held two permits at the site, totaling some 1,850 acres. Alpha Natural Resources held a single permit measuring 1,100 acres. The two companies still could perform underground mining at the sites, although their permits would have to be modified, Charles Keeney, vice president of Friends of Blair Mountain, said.
Arch and Alpha also could file a legal challenge. Because courts tend to defer to agency decisions, however, their chances of overturning the decision appear to be slight. Neither Arch nor Alpha immediately returned requests for comment. The decision was signed June 27 and obtained by Bloomberg Environment on June 29.
Blair Mountain was first nominated as a historic site in 2005 by the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Officer. The National Register in 2009 listed the battlefield as a historic site, sparking litigation from several coal companies. The companies argued that local landowners had objected to the battlefield’s inclusion in the register, and the site was delisted later.
Even if the site had been left off the register, it isn’t clear whether ground would have been broken at Blair Mountain.
“I doubt any coal companies are interested in mining at Blair, given market conditions,” Aaron Isherwood, managing attorney for the Environmental Law Program at the Sierra Club, told Bloomberg Environment.
Neither Arch nor Alpha’s stock moved in the immediate aftermath of the news, suggesting that the decision hasn’t changed investors’ minds on the companies’ outlooks, Andrew Cosgrove, Bloomberg Intelligence senior industry analyst for metals and mining, told Bloomberg Environment.
“We consider this a victory for the environment and labor history,” Peter Morgan, staff attorney at the Sierra Club, told Bloomberg Environment. “This site has taken on symbolic significance for both the coal industry and opponents of mountaintop removal mining. It’s edifying to see that it will be protected.”
The Sierra Club has received funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg Environment is operated by entities controlled by Michael Bloomberg.
Julie Ernstein, acting chief of the National Register, declined to comment. The decision was signed by Joy Beasley, keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, and had been shepherded by former keeper Paul Loether, who resigned his post June 13. Last month Loether told Bloomberg Environment his goal was to wrap up the decision before he left office.
Loether wasn’t a political appointee. He now serves as executive director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)