Adkins said that there is more in the balance than just 250 good paying mining jobs and coal severance taxes.
Adkins said only surface mining operations in West Virginia, Kentucky and other parts of Appalachia have been singled out by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration and that West Virginia — in particular — has been hit hard by how the current EPA administration has chosen to interpret laws regarding the Spruce Mine permit.
“This affects all of us due to the tax base,” Adkins said. “If this stands they cannot mine it. This has huge implications.”
Adkins said the reversal on the Spruce Mining permit had hurt a lot of people including a company that made a $350 million investment, people looking for employment and the local government and education system which could have provided better services with the taxes that were expected from the project.
“And the property owners too,” Adkins said. “They will be wanting some tax relief on the property if they can’t mine it. Remember, 60 percent of the coal mined in Logan comes from surface mining. If this becomes a precedent, it could sterilize our tax base. As it is, it’s a huge hit and it will cost us a lot of services that will not be provided in our communities. Often the outside world doesn’t see that or understand it. But these are issues that can negatively impact the quality of life in Appalachia. Only Appalachia is being punished.”
Adkins was the special guest speaker on Wednesday for the Rotary Club of Logan where he discussed mining as well as major projects in the Logan County area that are coming to fruition.
Adkins said work is expected to start soon on the $38 million dollar Main Island Creek dredging project in Ellis Addition.
“The Super-8 Motel has been given a vacate date and the demolition of that structure should start soon,” Adkins said. “The first part of that project will be the relocation of sewage lines, however. They will go out to the main road. A new bridge will also be put in around that area and it will keep the piers out of the stream.”
Adkins said the US Army Corps of Engineers project will most likely cause traffic delays and headaches with two projects taking place in the same area.
“Some 286,000 yards of earth will be moved and that is a lot,” Adkins said noting work should start in Ellis Addition and around the Boulevard area at the same time.
Adkins said the Logan County Airport is seeing more expansion thanks to its being utilized by the US military for training purposes. New runway lights are being installed and more services will become a part of the airport thanks the Air National Guard. The military is currently using the facility for night vision training.
“There is a whole lot of things we will be seeing coming to our airport,” Adkins said.
Adkins said recent demolition projects in the city of Logan could make some economic development possible.
“The county helped the city by getting a Class III permit for a land fill,” Adkins explained of the Aracoma Hotel demolition. That permit gives us places to remove around 200 dilapidated houses in the county. That will help us tremendously.”
Adkins said the Man Hospital complex should also be removed by the end of this year and another contract is up for bid on the new Route 10. In four years time, the road from Man to Three Mile Curve should be completed.
Currently, Adkins and the Logan County Commission continue to work on the county’s dilapidated building ordinance. Adkins said that there are issues to be addressed such as abandoned properties with multiple owners or properties that have been used as collateral on loans so the first structures targeted will be single owner properties.
Property owners will be given a deadline to fix up or remove the structures. After that deadline, if nothing is done, the county will do the work and place a lien on the property or sell it to pay for the expenses. Neighboring property owners would have first dibs on purchasing the property.
“There are a lot of issues,” Adkins said. “We have defined what we will do with individual owners of such properties and those will be the first projects.”
Adkins said that, for decades, rural West Virginia had been the butt of many jokes due to shanties, shacks and a perception of an out-of-date lifestyle, but that the time had come to change that image by getting rid of abandoned structures and putting on the best appearance for tourists. “We want the project the real image of West Virginia,” Adkins said. “If you talk to the Hatfield-McCoy Trail riders the first things they tell you is how delighted they are with how friendly the people here are and how beautiful our scenery is. So we have a lot of cleaning up to do to protect our investment in tourism.”