By Jody Brumage
Anyone driving through West Virginia today will see yard signs and billboards expressing support and opposition to the construction of pipelines in the state. The current debate centers largely on pipelines built to transport natural gas, but fifty-six years ago, a similar battle was fought in the state over coal slurry pipelines. The technology for these overland transport systems was developed in the early-1960s. Slurry pipelines operate in one of two ways: the coal is pulverized and mixed with water or it is pressed into logs which are floated through the pipelines to their destination. Soon after this technology became available, West Virginia’s mine operators began exploring ways that pipelines could open new markets for coal extracted from the Mountain State where exportation had always relied primarily upon railroad and river barge transport.
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