Girl Scouts Petition Against Mining Near Summer Camp

Girl Scouts in Kentucky are petitioning against a proposed coal mine to be built near their resident summer camp, Camp Pennyroyal, which is located in western Kentucky near the city of Owensboro. Camp Pennyroyal has entertained Girl Scouts and schoolchildren since the 1940s at the site, which measures 180 acres and includes a spring-fed lake and dam, as well as cabins and a main lodge.

If approved, the surface mine would be located less than half a mile from the camp. Western Kentucy Minerals (WKM) is seeking the approval of the city’s planning commission to rezone the land to allow mining on the site, but the Girl Scouts are asking the commission to reject the company’s request.  

WKM originally proposed a strip mine on almost 700 acres of land adjacent to the camp, but reduced its proposal to include about 385 acres last week. However, if the rezoning plan succeeds, the company intends to eventually mine the remaining acres of land, resulting in a total extraction of 2.1 million tons of coal. The company believes that, since the mine would be located 2,000 feet from the camp, campers would not be affected by the effects of mining.

However, the Girl Scouts and local residents disagree. Residents believe that the mine would disturb the tranquility that they are accustomed to in the area, as well as decrease their property values. The Girl Scouts cite a long list of risks associated with the mine, including negative effects on air and water quality, as their reasons for their opposing stance. They believe that the mine would create dust and debris that would contribute to air pollution and asthma, and that its operations would create unwelcome noise pollution. The clearing of the land for mining would disturb wildlife and destroy their natural habitat, while the mine would release pollutants into the environment, including arsenic, lead, mercury and selenium. Since the site is located near an aquifer, the chance of water pollution is high, and these metal pollutants could seep into the lake, polluting the water and poisoning fish.

The mine would be active for a projected seven to nine years – the amount of time that WKM estimates that it will take to extract the coal – but its operation and effects could possibly last even longer.

The Girl Scouts brought the petition to the Owensboro Metropolitan Planning Commission in Daviess County last week, where the city commissioners tied, 5 to 5, in a vote to rezone the land. The city will conduct a second vote on March 8, and if the vote ties again, the matter will be heard in fiscal court.

Though the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana – the Girl Scout council that owns the camp – has not taken an official stance on the issue, they said in a position statement issued last week, “In an ideal world, Girl Scouts would like to see Camp Pennyroyal and the surrounding communities left in an ‘untouched’ state for future generations to enjoy.” The statement went on to acknowledge the legal right of companies to use land as they see fit, and said that the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana is taking steps to “address key issues that relate to monitoring seismic activity and water quality, minimizing excessive noise, dust and disruptive blasting, and outlining remediation options for situations that may arise over the short or long term.”

The Girl Scouts believe that protecting their camp and its pristine surrounding areas is a priority, and they have until March 8 to gather and present more petition signatures. They are not alone in their disapproval of surface mining – this week, more than 1,200 Kentucky residents gathered at the state Capitol building in Frankfort for “I Love Mountains Day”, an annual rally to protest destructive mining in the state. The Girl Scouts’ petition is available for everyone to sign, while residents of Kentucky can sign an additional petition from the Sierra Club.

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