People who oppose the proposed “coal fields expressway” are staging a protest in Abingdon Virginia, where coal company, Alpha Natural Resources is holding its annual meeting Wednesday, May 22.
The protestors say they’ll call attention to the company’s role in what’s known as the Coalfields Expressway. A proposed 50 mile road, supporters say will improve transportation in far southwest Virginia and help the local economy.
Marley Green is a community organizer with the Sierra Club. He lives in a former coal camp in Wise county, where he says people are concerned the proposed 4 lane highway will leave them out when it bypasses their businesses benefitting the coal companies but not area residents.
“2035 is the expected completion date of this road and we have reason to doubt that money will be money to finish this road. And we’re concerned that we’re going to allow the coal companies to use eminent domain, (and) VDOT will use eminent domain to take people’s land, they’ll strip mine it, return it to rough grade road bed and we’ll be left with strip mined mountains and no road," said Green.
The Sierra club and other groups are calling for an environmental impact study to look at how recently proposed changes to the proposed route affect surrounding water and land. Officials at the Virginia Department of transportation say, “...Although the alignment of the route has shifted, it remains within the original, approved environmental study corridor.”
VDOT’s Michelle Earl says the Coalfields Expressway would be an economic lifeline to a region that suffers partly due to a limited network of roads.
Alpha Natural Resources did not respond to our request for comment by news time.