Mountaintop Removal Masquerading as a Highway Project

VDOT Expected to Release Final Environmental Assessment Shortly

Case Summary

Under the shield of Virginia’s Public-Private Transportation Act, coal companies have partnered with the state’s Department of Transportation to fast-track approval of a mountaintop removal coal mining venture disguised as a highway project, known as the Coalfields Expressway.

Paying for Access Otherwise Denied

Originally proposed in the 1990s, the Coalfields Expressway was stymied by a shortage of funding, so VDOT entered into a public-private partnership with two coal companies that proposed an alternate route for the highway. The agency would acquire title to lands needed for rights-of-way and provide partial funding for design and construction. The coal companies would then blast away mountaintops to extract coal along the route, clearing the way for VDOT to complete construction of the four-lane highway.

VDOT Turns a Blind Eye to Destruction

SELC and its partners have strong objections to this plan. VDOT is attempting to use the new “coal synergy” concept to sidestep essential aspects of environmental review and permitting processes that are required by law. What’s more, with the state’s power of eminent domain behind them, VDOT’s for-profit partners would be able to mine land that might otherwise be inaccessible to them. In June 2012, VDOT issued an assessment of the environmental impacts of the road, but it completely failed to acknowledge the devastating environmental and public health impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining. The assessment relies on decade-old surveys and incomplete information regarding potential effects on wildlife, streams, wetlands, and forest habitat. Read more about the dangers of mountaintop mining on our Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining page.

via the Southern Environmental Law Center.