Letters, Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Dec. 4 letters to the editor

Taxpayers left liable for reclamation costs

West Virginia has over 173,000 acres of unreclaimed mine land — land that has been mined and left behind by the coal industry.

The restoration of our state’s mine lands is essential to improving water quality, revitalizing natural landscapes and creating jobs and economic growth in coal communities. West Virginia has a long way to go when it comes to mine land reclamation, thanks to the careless abandonment of these coal companies that have degraded our land for decades.

Aren’t there safeguards in place to hold these companies accountable? Initially, in 1977, the federal Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) was established, requiring that coal operators reclaim their mine sites as mining is completed. SMCRA also requires coal operators to post a bond adequate to cover the cost of reclamation as part of their mining permit.

In West Virginia, however, the required bond does not cover the cost of reclamation. To make up for the shortfall, the state created a “Special Reclamation Fund” (SRF) to cover the cost of reclamation for sites that went bankrupt or forfeited their bonds. The SRF is funded by a tax of 27.9 cents per ton of coal mined.

As less coal is mined here, current reclamation liabilities far exceed the money available in the SRF. The underbonding of West Virginia reclamation sites and the pending bankruptcy of the SRF could end up costing state taxpayers over $1 billion.

As a solution to the problem, legislators passed SB1, which will use $50 million in taxpayer dollars to prop up the riskiest coal companies, passing the responsibility on to West Virginia citizens. This number is likely just a starting point. This bill also ignores all suggestions made by the legislative audit report, which recommended that the state raise bond limits for mining bonds, require more stringent bonding authority and take the liability away from the taxpayers.

Take action today and urge your legislators to address this crisis without gouging taxpayers. https://wvecouncil.org/call-to-action/

Jenna Breeckner

The soldier’s sacrifice and the child’s wonder

Last Sunday in church, I watched a young man take his grandfather’s hand and guide him to the nativity under our Christmas tree.

What I saw was glorious in and of itself:  a child showing his grandfather one of the wonders of this Christmas season, then I realized that what I had seen meant something more.

You see, I have spent half my life as a soldier and have seen and done many things, some of which were on my mind that day, having just passed through this year’s Veterans Day. In my previous life, I had flown over places of worship in other lands that were destroyed by individuals who said they were members of that faith.

I hope you can understand just how singular it is in this world to see that child and his grandfather share that scene in a that place.

I sat there and gave thanks that I have a safe place to witness what I had seen. That a young man has a place where he has the freedom to take his grandfather’s hand and lead him to see and witness the wonderful scene of his Savior’s birth.

I hope, as we participate in this celebration, we see it with that child’s innocence and wonder. That somehow, we can forgo our worldly ways and understand that we are free to worship and think as we choose without being told how to do it. That the freedom to do so has been purchased with deep sacrifice, and that we appreciate that sacrifice with a child’s innocence and wonder.

So, I send this soldier’s wish and hope that as we celebrate the Savior’s birth, we can think of a child’s innocence and wonder and use that to appreciate the gifts we have been given as citizens of this great nation. Because without the child and the soldier, we would not have the freedoms we enjoy.

So enjoy the coming season but also value the sacrifices that were made for us to be here.

Andrew Price

‘I’ve become a single issue voter’ for roads

Economic development is the third rail of politics in West Virginia.

The only roads I heard about during the recent campaign were the Harmony Grove interchange, which would serve the Morgantown Industrial Park, and the Star City interchange of I-79, which would serve Mylan Park for a Big 12 meet, an NCAA function or an Olympic qualifier. No candidate mentioned any of the five roads I travel on a regular basis.

Westwood Middle was built in 1994 (784 students) while Skyview was built in 2006 (427 students). For nearly 30 years, the Division of Highways would come out to Dupont Road — the primary school bus route — to clean the ditches, patch the potholes and throw down some asphalt every so often.

I wasn’t surprised when the department came out in October and widened Duport Road by four feet and placed a new layer of asphalt down from the Industrial Park to U.S. 19. I would like to suggest that the reason for the upgrade was the students riding the school buses, but we all know the reason is that Mountaintop Beverage will be operational by the end of the year and its trucks need a smooth, wide surface to operate on.

According to the traffic counts on the MPO website, Dupont Road serves 5,185 vehicles per day. The five roads I care about serve the following: Holland Avenue, 13,755; Green Bag Road, 9,930; Brockway Avenue, 8,299; Van Voorhis Road, 8,055; and Dunkard Avenue, 4,562.

I’m no longer interested in good intentions in regard to my five roads — I’m interested in results. So I’ve decided to become a single issue voter. Until I recognize “substantial” improvements on these five roads, I will not vote for any incumbent who appears on any ballot presented to me.

Dennis Poluga