Rutland Herald Op-ed:

All Danby has interest in blocking quarry

November 16, 2000

For the record, OMYA is not proposing to reopen an existing mine in Danby. OMYA is proposing to open a new mine at a new site.

For those of us who live here, it is not about whether OMYA is a good company or how many people they employ or what their product is. It is about preserving a special place in this world, a place that will not survive the type of mining operation that OMYA is proposing.

As OMYA's geologist Don Burns told members of Tinmouth's Planning Commission in March, "This would be a brand new thing, there'd be impacts … There's obviously going to be visual impacts, noise impacts, those will be the two greatest from the quarry itself, and then there's the issue of running trucks on the town roads." Mr. Burns told the Tinmouth Select Board in April, "There is no question that our proposal represents change, and it also involves impacts to what exists now."

OMYA is already having an impact on Danby. Where newcomers peacefully coexisted next to native Danby folk, a "them and us" attitude is developing. It comes as an unpleasant shock to many of us who call Danby home to hear the argument from supporters of OMYA's mining plans: "We've always been a real working town. We're not just sitting on the porch looking at the view." "Maybe if we make the view bad, they'll leave." "Our kids can't stay here because they own all the land." "This is our town. Who cares what people from New Jersey want?"

The people who live in Danby Four Corners valley are not just sitting on the porch looking at the view. We a hard-working Danby residents, many of whom work at home or on the land, including native Danby folk. The incredible view here is something we treasure, something that OMYA's mine will destroy. People from New Jersey are paying considerably more in taxes to Danby than OMYA's Imperial Marble Quarry and Dutch Hill holdings combined. In fact, people who don't live in Danby (excluding OMYA) pay more than a third of Danby's grand list.

I would be a seventh-generation Pennsylvanian if my parents had stayed put. Moving away from the town where my mother's family has been since the 1700s was not my choice. By the time I could make a choice about where to live, I chose Danby. I don't have a view, don't live in a fancy house, and don't appreciate the kind of talk I'm hearing from OMYA's mine supporters in Danby. If someone takes a position in support of OMYA's proposal, I would hope it is because of the facts about issues. The idea that the quarry will drive the "rich flatlanders" away so the locals can buy land has no basis in fact. Drive through this valley, and you will see friends and neighbors, dairy, sheep, and horse farmers who have everything to lose if OMYA's plan succeeds. "Them" is "us," and we are all in this together.

OMYA proposes to take $30 million worth of product out of Danby each year. Right now, the fact is that OMYA has provided no evidence to the people of Danby that there will be benefits to the town. What we have seen is proof in the form of OMYA's photographic representation presented at the meeting in Danby that what they plan to do will be an enormous visual blight on the landscape.

There is no way to hide it, and no way to shield us from the dust and noise of trucks and loaders operating all day hundreds of feet up a hillside in this narrow valley. We know that 40 trucks a day is considered "small" by OMYA. They are planning a large-scale mining operation here that is incompatible with the area.

As Mr. Burns explained in Timouth, "We just opened a quarry five years ago next to the plant called Hogback quarry … We've modeled it (the proposed Danby mine), it's the scale of the Hogback quarry essentially, and we feel a quarry on that scale is appropriate for that environment. Hogback quarry is exactly this scale, the permitted limit of 40 round trips a day … The level of our traffic at SLC (South Wallingford) is six to eight trucks a day … A quarry like Hogback, that's the scale we're talking about."

The open land, the farm animals, and the wildlife, the peace and quiet here, the fact that you know what time it is by when the cows cross the road, you know when hay is being cut or corn is being chopped, you hear and see the geese, you listen in awe and a bit of fear to the coyotes calling to each other from hill to hill - the majority of the people in this area would be devastated if they had only one day a week in which to hear the birds and the rest of wildlife.

It is up to OMYA to prove their case in Act 250. It is up to the citizens of the region to raise our voices to save this beautiful valley. There is no way to mitigate the impacts of the mining of calcium carbonate in this particular setting. There is no amount of money that will convince us to give up. We are planning to win.

Annette Smith of Danby is executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.