Save the Sharp Farm of Pocahontas County
History and heritage in Slatyfork, West Virginia.

West Virginia Welcomes Business at a Steep Cost

Thursday February 1, 2007
The Charleston Gazette

By Arol Wulfing

Driving up from Virginia along the Allegheny Front into West Virginia on Highway 39 is one of the most spectacular scenic drives anywhere in this country or the world. Then, upon entering beautiful West Virginia where you are still enthralled with the sight of endless mountain vistas, you are welcomed to West Virginia with the most incongruous welcome sign anywhere. It says, "Welcome to West Virginia—Open for Business."

When I first saw that sign I thought I had to be mistaken or it was too funny to believe. What happened to "Wild and Wonderful?" I then recalled the fight we are waging here in Pocahontas County against the use of eminent domain on the part of our county government to grab portions of a private farm for a proposed sewage treatment plant. This land is to be used by the Snowshoe Resort in order to handle their millions of gallons of waste; is to be built on Karst terrain, full of potholes and at the Elk headwaters. This project is opposed by every environmental group and the citizens of Pocahontas County.

I also remembered the vigilance we have to have here in our county to keep a proposed quarry from gaining a permit from the state to operate and dump into Knapps Creek, which is one of the most beautiful creeks here in the East.

I recall the fight our neighbors in Greenbrier County are engaged in against an intrusive wind power project being pumped as an environmental benefit, but is really a business opportunity to provide wealth for a few opportunists. This project is to be built near one of the major raptor flyways in our state. And now to top it off, a new proposed coal GOB-fired plant, to be placed in Western Greenbrier County. So, yes "Open for Business" is the right slogan, isn't it?

Everywhere in this state, the beautiful natural areas are being destroyed and in the coal fields miners needlessly dying and injured in out-of-date old-fashioned dangerous mines—all in the name of "business" at any cost. And it is costing. The few privileged ones, as usual, seeing the opportunity for more money, more "business," at the cost of human lives and the destruction of the natural environment, create these projects to increase their profit margin with promises of "jobs." All this in spite of the majority of people in those respective counties being against these projects.

To even suggest a new coal fired plant to get rid of coal waste, with its exorbitant pollutants into the air such as mercury and lead, so dangerous to our children, and at this time of global warming, is sacrilegious. The elected county commissioners in these counties going against their constituents' wishes seems to be a travesty of the electoral process, one they have learned well from the current president and his administration. The amount of traffic, noise, dust and pollution caused by some of these projects is horrendous. Hardly a fair exchange for a few jobs, which are questionable as to their duration, to say the least.

The loss of lives, the grieving of families, the removal of complete mountain tops—shocking, irremediable damage. Yes, "Open for Business" is the right slogan! The state is welcoming any business without regard to its citizens' health or welfare. The Public Service Commission seems to think anything business wants, business gets; anything business wants is "necessary." Everywhere in this state so many agencies seem to be working for the wrong people, and the wrong businesses.

As a parting thought, I wondered if our license plates would be changing from "Wild and Wonderful" to "Open for Business." I imagined being parked at a rest stop somewhere with that slogan on my license plate. I guess everyone would think it's an open invitation for a traveling bordello?

Arol Wulfing lives in Marlinton.