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The center of the park was Duke Lake: a reservoir, created by damming a fork of Wheeling Creek, where people had gathered for decades to swim, paddle canoes, and fish.
While Consol was mining nearby, the dam ruptured, and the water had to be drained away.
Sunday morning, just after deer-hunting season ended, Veronica Coptis, a community organizer in rural Greene County, Pennsylvania, climbed onto her father’s four-wheeler.
She set off for a ridge a quarter of a mile from her parents’ small farmhouse, where she was brought up with her brother and two sisters.
“This is property owned by every resident in Pennsylvania,” Coptis said.
“They don’t get to keep plowing through our communities as if we didn’t matter.”Since the mid-eighteenth century, Appalachia has supplied coal to the rest of the country, in an arrangement that has brought employment but also pollution and disease.
She heard the word “environmentalist” for the first time in college, at West Virginia University.
(Local hunters and fishermen, whom Coptis sees as some of her best potential allies, prefer to identify themselves as “conservationists.”) After graduating, she moved back to Greene County and married Donald Fike, a former marine who worked in the mines.
There are two thousand jobs underground in Greene County, and, according to state estimates, each one supports 3.7 others at the surface.
Coptis’s opponents argue that the benefits outweigh the costs.
Recently, on Twitter, an industry organization called Energy Jobs Matter taunted Coptis: “How much is the Sierra Club paying you to put these families on unemployment?
Maybe the same tactic could work here, Coptis said.
It was dangerous, though; the slurry was too thick to swim through, and at least one worker had fallen in and drowned.
Around her stretched a three-mile wasteland of valleys.