I would like to follow up on a previous letter I submitted regarding the “Two Acre House Permit,” or as it was widely known in the mining industry, “The String of Pearls.”
It is not totally fair to blame all coal operators for these permits being done away with. We know now that it was a handful of unscrupulous people abusing this permit and moving on to another site with no intention of either building a house or a business there. Furthermore, they had no intention of reclaiming the site to get their bond money back, either. You can spend just a minute on the Internet to get their names, see what the bond was, and to see what the cost was to reclaim the site.
The state should never have allowed another permit to be issued to these people to mine next to a site that had not been used for a house or business, or otherwise reclaimed to at least to be used for a nice barn, for a mountain pasture for horses or cattle farms. You could say a lot of inspectors turned a blind eye to the law by allowing these “String of Pearls” to materialize where there was supposed to be a “Two Acre House Permit.”
Anyone who has worked on one of these jobs has seen an inspector drive up on the site, never get out of his vehicle, some envelopes exchange hands, and then the inspector drives away. Later that day when you go in the “office” to put your stuff up to go home, you see a few minor citations pinned on the mine bulletin board. In those days that amounted to a few $50 fines.
Some of you also know the in- spectors that had the fine homes and fancy cars on an inspector’s salary, which by the way, was a lot less than you could make working as a miner. I’ve even heard of inspectors who had to resign or went looking for other jobs when the “Two Acre” was stopped and done away with.
I believe the governor of Kentucky should seriously re-visit a few of these permits at a reasonable bond that a small operator could afford. This would really help our coal producing counties. We could watch them closely, all of us, and see what happens. Let’s see if a house or business goes there. What have we got to lose, but a few hundred well-paying jobs that are gone for now anyway? And everybody knows that we need the severance tax money. How’s the road holding up where you drive every day?
One thing is for certain: This place couldn’t look any worse than it does now. Just ride your ATV back on one of these gas roads they’re building everywhere and take a good look around.
One very important thing the state should do is make sure the permits that would be issued are to the landowner only — no subleases. Make sure the landowner has a mineral lease, or could get one, before a permit is issued. The mineral owners should go along with this, seeing as they have very little coal being mined.
Doing it this way would make certain the land has a house or business on the sites. I would be more than glad to discuss this matter with anyone.