Virginia Department of Energy
Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Projects on Abandoned Mine Lands
August 14, 2023 @ 6:00 p.m.
Location: Mountain Empire Community College
Tarah Kesterson: My name is Tarah Kesterson, I’m the Public Relations Director for the Virginia Department of Energy and I’m happy to be here with you guys tonight. We welcome this exciting opportunity. We want to collaborate with you, our agency does on future projects and hopefully get some great ideas as we go throughout this process. This is the first of three public listening sessions so hopefully by the end of it, we will have some great ideas. We can get some great projects done. Before we get started, just a few housekeeping things. This is not going to be a question answer session. Our staff is here just to listen to you guys only so your ideas and everything you have going on; we want to hear it. We will be happy to follow-up with you afterward if you do have questions and needs some more information about anything that’s happening right now, you can email us at BILComments@energy.virginia.gov is dedicated for the public to contact our Abandoned Mine Land staff and they will be answering that or you can just call our office and the numbers right there and ask for Abandoned Mine Land staff and we’ll get you someone to answer your question. Only the audio of this public comment session is going to be recorded so we will be posting that on the website within this week if you need to go back and listen to that. Hopefully everyone that wants to speak, and I think we have one person on the list, so if anyone else here would to please make sure that you go ahead and sign up and then Darlene will be calling you up to the stand in order that you signed up. All comments tonight should be specific to an Abandoned Mine Land feature or project so before we take public comment, so I just invite Abandoned Mine Land Program Director, Lesa Baker to talk about our program here at Virginia Energy.
Lesa Baker: Thank you Tarah.
Tarah Kesterson: Do you want me to click for you?
Lesa Baker: If you want too, that will be fine. Either way is fine. Thank you all for coming out for those of you who came out that has an interest in the Abandoned Mine Land program at Virginia Energy. I’m just going to give an overview of our current program. The Virginia Energy, Department of Mined Land and Reclamation, AML program is now administering three separate funded grant programs. The tradition program was born out of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, the Virginia Primacy program began in 1981 and that is a fee collection program. In 2017, we began receiving the Abandoned Mined Land Economic Revitalization funding and we continue to receive that; that’s $10 million dollars a year and growing. In 2021, President Biden announced that Virginia AML would be the recipient of a portion of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law BIL funding, and we have received the first year of that funding. Our traditional AML program is averaged about $3 million dollars annually and because of the limited budget, we focused priority 1 and 2 projects and those are the projects that created the most problems in our Virginia Coalfields. You can see most projects were completed with this funding are those that are considered dangerous to the public and/or the environment. The 2021 BIL increased our budget significantly and we anticipate this funding would allow us to do more comprehensive reclamation projects; and that’s what we are taking comments on today. Which could include larger problem area initiatives rather than individual features, also we estimate about 3,000 features are inventoried and this funding will make a major impact on getting those reclaimed. This funding will be part or will be spent in all the historic mining areas across the Commonwealth and that includes the southwest, the middle region and the Richmond coalfields. So now, I am going to ask Tim Ferguson, Manager of the AMLER program to give an overview of the AMLER program.
Tim Ferguson: Thanks Lesa. Okay, AMLER; what that stands for is Abandoned Mined Land Economic Revitalization. In short, we put economic projects on Abandoned Mined Land sites. So, in 2017, we received our first round of funding for the AMLER grant and it has continued each year. That $10 million is specific to Southwest Virginia and distributed based on grant applications and again, these are for economic development projects but as you can see of the, you know, it’s not that easy of a process. There’s a lot of things that goes into it and you have to kind of be prepared for it to go through and understand what an AML feature is and that type of thing but stay tuned because we will be doing some workshops later this year to sort of educate a little bit more about the AMLER works. But to talk a little bit more about the Economic Development, I want to introduce Daniel Kestner; whose our Economic Development Manager for the Virginia Department of Energy.
Daniel Kestner: Thanks Tim and I’ll be brief. Yea, AMLER’s important part of our vision for Economic Development to repurpose mined lands in the coalfields. One of the things, we do a lot of work “inaudible’, we do a lot of work, mostly we’re focused on expanding job opportunities through energy and industrial manufacturing related projects. We also look at other types of projects like agricultural industries, commercial or technology-based developments so looking at repurposing mined land, AMLER is an important piece of that, and we can fund a lot of projects through that. I don’t want to take a lot more time but we’re happy to help on projects as they are being developed and hope to answer projects questions related to economic development and repurposing mined land so Tarah provided an email and a phone number or will shortly, so you are welcome to reach out to us with any questions on economic development at Virginia Energy. With that, I’ll turn it back over to Tarah.
Tarah Kesterson: Thank you everyone for going through our presentation with us. Now we are going to start the public comments session and just a reminder just come to the microphone and Darlene will call your name just so will have of this recorded. If you want to speak and make sure you say your name and your community of where you are from. Again, the email is BILComments@energy.virginia.gov. The phone number, we can pop it up again later but 276-523-8100.
Darlene Gibson: Matt Hepler, do you want to say anything?
Matt Hepler: No, I’m good.
Darlene Gibson: No, okay and for the record, Matt does not want to say anything. Okay, Mr. Day? If you want to come up here. Just state your name for the record, please.
Ronald Day: My name is Ronald Day. I am from the Dunbar Community. I guess since nobody else is going to speak, I got two hours. Right? The meeting is from 6:00 to 8:00?
Ronald Day: Everybody get them something good and cold to drink. No, I’ll make this short. The feelings of some of the citizens in Dunbar, we feel before AML takes on new projects. I always call it the Division of Mine Land Reclamation; DMLR, I guess it’s one and one, isn’t it?
Anyway, before they take on new projects, they need to fix the ones they already got started and they’ve had one started in my community since, for years, years. It seemed like the hold up all the time, they actually come up and fixed part of it. They’ve fixed about a fourth of it and cleaned out a canal and it’s also got another quarter mile to a half of mile on up the mountain that needs significant work done do it. Before you start of that mountain, it cuts off right-handed and goes right up by my house. Right above my house, Westmoreland Coal; years ago, they decided to let water out of their mines, so they brought a bulldozer down by the railroad track and made a road and brought an auger in and drilled three holes. For years, they just let that water come out by the railroad track and after I moved back in the house, I live up there now and remodeled, I talked to a lot of folks and finally Bill Wampler helped me out. They come up there and put in like a half of a culvert; a half-move culvert and I forget how many years ago it was, but it’s wore out, not only is it half wore out but where the water comes out of the three auger holes the pipe don’t go plump up to where they are so now the water is going under it. So, a year before last I had to pay myself $2,200 for a plumber to come into my yard with his equipment and dig a ditch and put it into another drain and make the drain go left in case that one stops up and it will, to keep the water off. So, to hold up all this time, and I can’t believe that this bunch can have a straggle hold on the State of Virginia like they do. They’ve had one hold up every time, Norfolk and Southern Railroad. You know everything has been a go for two or three times except Norfolk and Southern Railroad; I don’t think they’ve ever said no, they just wouldn’t say anything and you got to have the easement not to get on their track but just to get down beside their track and get it fixed because the project is actually; the project that they fixed is actually getting worse because where they cut the bank out and done all the dozer work above it, there’s some monstrous oak trees and those oak trees now are now 50 years older than they was when they first; when Westmoreland done the first auger holes, maybe 55 years. So, now I believe they are getting so heavy that their kind of slipped. Okay, I called; if I get off target just tell me and I’ll quit but anyway, I called Penn Virginia. Penn Virginia came and brought their Engineer and they said, they’re not ours, they’re on the railroads right-a-way. So, I called the Railroad and the Railroad said they’re not ours, they’re not on our right-a-way and besides that we’re not in the business of cutting trees. So, I call Penn Virginia back and they never would come look again but I told him; I asked him, okay if they’re not yours and they’re not the Railroads, do they belong to me? You know? Can I have them cut and get the logs? And I guarantee I couldn’t do that, so all I’m asking is and I’ll hush is that maybe you guys could take a real strong look at this, and I know she does, and I got the cards of the other two guys. I’ve had three different people on this project; John Michael and her and I just hope that you would look at it before you start spending a bunch of money somewhere else. It doesn’t affect about, one, two, three, about five of us, because if it floods, it’s going to flood everything else like it did once in the 80’s and caused a fiasco but anyway, it’s just a pipe. It’s getting worse all the time. So, I thank you for your time, I’ll see you later. I got to get home before they find out before I’m gone, okay.
All: Thank you.
Tarah Kesterson: Alright, that’s it. So, all the updates; audio from the next two hearings as well will be on our website and you can follow us on social media for more information. Thanks everybody for coming out.
Darlene Gibson: Closing out at 6:28 p.m.
Virginia Department of Energy
Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Projects on Abandoned Mine Lands
August 23, 2023 @ 6:00 p.m.
Location: Southwest Virginia Community College
Tarah Kesterson: Welcome to an exciting opportunity to collaborate with Virginia Energy on future projects, just a couple of things before we get started. This is not a question-and-answer session, our staff is here to listen. We’re focusing on what you have to say tonight but we are happy to follow up with you after. If you have any questions, you can email us or you can also give us a call, only the audio of this public comment session will be recorded and your welcome to listen again on our website after tonight’s session. Hopefully everyone that wants to speak has signed up and it looks like we have the list here and I will call your name to come up, please be sure to say your name, your address or the town or community where you are from, that is enough before you begin your comments. All comments should be specific to an Abandoned Mined Land feature or project. So, I will invite Amanda Killen to share her public comments with us.
Amanda Killen: I’m Amanda Killen. I live in Tazewell Virginia. Although tonight, I want to speak on behalf of Hurley. I am the new Economy Program Coordinator for Appalachian Voices, essentially, I coal impacted communities and assist them, technical support on their grant applications and project management, things of that nature.
Appalachian Voices would like to draw your attention to the ongoing flood recovery efforts in Hurley, VA, and discuss how the implementation of the Abandoned Mine Land Program could significantly benefit the residents of this community.
As we are all aware, Hurley recently faced a devastating flood event that has left a lasting impact on the town and its residents. The challenges presented by the aftermath of the flood require a comprehensive and sustainable approach to recovery and preparedness, and we feel the AML Program can play a pivotal role.
The Abandoned Mine Land Program presents a unique opportunity. By directing resources and attention towards Hurley's flood recovery efforts, the program can help alleviate the damage caused by the flood and simultaneously contribute to the reclamation of abandoned mine sites in the region.
Through this program, Virginia Energy could collaborate with local authorities, community organizations, and environmental agencies to restore the affected areas and to implement emergency flooding infrastructure that will help to mitigate future flood risks. This multi-faceted approach not only aids in the town's recovery but also brings a renewed sense of safety and stability to the residents of Hurley.
Furthermore, the AML Program's focus on economic revitalization aligns with the needs of Hurley's residents. By investing in projects that restore the environment and promote local job creation, the program could foster a sustainable and resilient community, which is essential for long-term growth and well-being.
Incorporating the AML Program into Hurley's flood recovery strategy demonstrates a commitment to both environmental stewardship and community welfare. We urge Virginia Energy to consider the potential benefits of this collaboration and explore the ways in which your expertise and resources could positively impact the lives of the people in Hurley.
Additionally, there are sites in Hurley that could potentially need to be evaluated or re-evaluated as problem sites that are currently not listed as priority sites.
We are hosting a community listening session scheduled on September 19th at 5:30pm at Hurley High School to explore how potential funding opportunities, such as the AML program, could benefit the residents of Hurley. We invite you guys to attend.
I will email you the flyer so if you are interested that would be great. That’s all I have.
Tarah Kesterson: That concludes our public listening session, Thank you everyone for coming out.