Methane From Coal Mines Upends the Lives of West Virginia Families

From a coal mine about 350 feet below, methane had forced its way up through bedrock fissures and into the [casing] of the well.

At that moment last August, the Nestors’ lives—which revolved around caring for their livestock and pets and supporting their three sons’ activities in baseball, wrestling, football and 4-H—were changed forever.

Now the Nestors are living in temporary quarters a mile away while their future hangs in the balance, depending on the outcome of a lawsuit the couple has filed in Taylor County Circuit Court against Arch Resources of St. Louis, the nation’s second largest coal mine operator.

The Nestors’ case is one of at least eight still pending that contend that Arch’s Leer Mine in Taylor County has damaged homes and property as a result of mining practices that can cause land to sink, alter ground and surface waters and, in the Nestors’ case, release dangerous methane.

The lawsuits argue, among other allegations, that Arch’s mining activities violated state law that directs mining companies to “protect off-site areas from damage,” “eliminate fire hazards” and “minimize the disturbance of the prevailing hydrologic balance at the mine site and in associated off-site areas,” both during and after mining operations.