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The High Cost of Coal

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr: King Coal Pillages Beautiful Land

Sunday, September 10th, 2006

In May 2002 I flew over the coalfields of Kentucky and West Virginia. From the air, I came face to face with one, but only one, of the enormous costs we pay for our nation’s dependence on coal. Leveled mountains, devastated communities, wrecked economies and ruined lives-this is the coal truth.

Half of our electricity comes from coal. In the Appalachian chain, ancient mountains are dismantled through a form of strip mining called mountaintop removal. We’re cutting down these historic landscapes-where Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett roamed and that are the source of America’s values and culture-with giant machines called draglines. These behemoths stand 22 stories, cost half a billion dollars, and practically dispense with the need for human labor.

That, indeed is the point. I recall a conversation that I had with my father when I was 14 years old and he was fighting strip mining in Appalachia. There was no environmental issue about which my father cared more passionately than strip mining. He visited the Appalachian coalfields in 1966 and many times thereafter. He explained to me that the strip miners were not just destroying the environment, they were permanently impoverishing the region; there was no way that Appalachian communities could rebuild an economy from the barren moonscapes the strip industry left behind. “And,” he told me, “they are doing it to break the unions.” Back then there were 114,000 unionized mine workers in West Virginia digging coal from tunnels and supporting the families and communities of Appalachia. Today, there are less than 11,000 miners in West Virginia taking the same amount of coal and only a fraction of them are unionized because the strip industry isn’t.

Using these giant machines and 3,000 pounds of dynamite that the industry detonates in West Virginia daily-a Hiroshima bomb’s worth of explosive power each week-King Coal is dismantling the ancient mountains and pristine streams of Appalachia. Mining companies blow off hundreds of feet from the tops of mountains to reach the thin seams of coal beneath. Colossal machines dump the mountaintops into adjacent valleys, destroying forests and communities and burying free-flowing mountain streams.

Rogers Ridge, photo by Kent Kessinger According to U.S. E.P.A., the waste from mountaintop removal mines has permanently interred 1,200 miles of Appalachian streams, polluted the region’s groundwater and rivers and rendered 400,000 acres of some of the world’s most biologically rich temperate forests into flat, barren wastelands, “devoid of topography and flowing water.”

“I look at what they’re doing and I can see the moonscape that they’ve created. And it’s total devastation, total devastation. Nothing will ever grow back,” Judy Bonds, a 52-year old grandmother from Whitesville, W. Va., told me. Bonds runs Coal River Mountain Watch, a community group that opposes mountaintop removal.

The mining industry debuted strip mining in the 1940s in the Western States, to extract coal seams that lay a few feet below the surface and therefore inaccessible through traditional tunnel mining. To extract the wealth, all you needed was a bulldozer.

In Appalachia, the mining companies adopted the process to get at deep coal seams. It was a laborsaving practice with devastating effects. Nothing was left behind, my father said-not even the hope that Appalachia’s people could someday resurrect their economies or communities.

Since my father’s trip, the machines and cuts have grown bigger while the work force has shrunk.

“We’ve watched our communities become ghost towns,” says Bonds, whose family has lived in Marfork Hollow for nine generations.

“We only have one grocery store where we used to have four. And you can walk through the little town and see that most of the buildings are boarded up because the businesses failed and the young people have left the area.”

It’s the same story wherever King Coal sets up shop. From Appalachia to the Western states of Wyoming and Utah, the strip miners have permanently destroyed some of the most beautiful country on Earth, leaving behind a legacy of misery and poverty.

King Coal sends more greenhouse gases into the air and more mercury and acid rain onto our earth and produces more lung-searing ozone and particulates than any other industry. As the nation’s largest energy provider-more than half of our electricity is coal-fired-big coal is the No. 1 polluter. There is no such thing as “clean coal.”

It’s also the No. 1 Bush donor. Big coal and the coal-burning utilities donated $20 million to President Bush and other Republicans in 2000, and have since sweetened the pot with another $21 million. Their generosity has not gone unnoticed. No industry had more highly placed sympathizers in the Bush camp than King Coal.

Lobbyists and executives of coal companies had unparalleled access to Vice President Dick Cheney’s task force while it was creating its new energy bill.

In 2004 I obtained the transcript of a briefing by Quin Shea, a top lobbyist for the Edison Electric Institute, the electric industry’s major lobbying arm, to a closed-door conference of coal and utility industry big shots in April 2001, a month before Cheney disclosed the administration’s energy plan.

Shea had received regular briefings on energy task force business from several White House insiders. The transcript of Shea’s comments reveal that the Bush administration’s energy task force proposals followed a line-by-line game plan devised by his coal and utility contributors.

At the conference, Shea explained that EEI was “working with the vice president” on behalf of coal. He made clear: “We desperately want to burn more coal. Coal is our friend.”

He cautioned, however, that several Clean Air and Clean Water Act requirements-in his words, “coal killers”-would soon impose costly cleanup measures on fossil-fuel companies unless something was done to scuttle or delay them.

Lucky for them, Shea explained, the administration was coming to the industry’s rescue. Shea refers to the Republican Party as “our party” and the administration as “we.” He warns his cronies against complacency, however, telling them that in the future they should not assume that they’ll have a president willing to plunder like “Bush or Attila the Hun.”

The pillage of Appalachia by King Coal is the work of public officials who view public service as an opportunity for wholesale plunder. It is just one tragic legacy of this White House.

“I believe that the coal industry has found the best friend they’ve ever had in the Bush administration,” Judy Bonds told me. “Definitely the Bush administration and the coal industry have teamed up to completely wipe Appalachia off the map. This is Appalachia’s last stand, Mr. Kennedy, it absolutely is. When the mountains go, so goes our culture and our people. The problem is that I think it’ll be the Bush administration that pushes the stake through our heart.”

Reprinted with permission from Waterkeeper Magazine, Winter 2006.

53 Responses to “Robert F. Kennedy, Jr: King Coal Pillages Beautiful Land”

  1. Jeanette Shiplette Says:

    It occurs to me that this “stip-mining” has gone on since the time President Kennedy was in office and most of our presidents have been democrats…Just recently Bill Clinton was in office for 8 years. If this is such a “party” problem, why didn’t the Democrats and their president and their politically controlled house and senate do something about this. I find it hard to believe, especially since one of the most outspoken senators is Mr. Ted Kennedy, that this situation has not had a voice and plenty of opportunity to rectify the situation. I think this is a political ploy to elect democrats.

    I do agree with one thing…this type of mining is obviously harmful to people and the environment. It would seem to me that the place to start is with the state government which I’m sure must be controlled by the democrats. I would think the states involved could put a moratorium on this type of mining. It should not have to be stopped by any federal process. States still have the right to control their land issues.

    I also agree that this information needs to be made public. Has any contacted 20/20 or Primetime. I have seen strip mining and mountaintop removal on the Discovery Channel. Has anyone thought of contacting them about doing a program on the after affects of this type of mining?
    There is Anderson Cooper’s 360. He is a very civic minded journalist. This story would probably be right down his alley. And, last but not least…how about contacting Oprah Winfrey. Not only is she civic minded, but she probably has the largest viewing audience in the U.S.

    This is not a political issue. This is a money issue! If you really want to fight this, go to the sources that can truly publicize the problem. It doesn’t matter which party is in control, because MONEY controls both parties!!!

  2. JW Randolph Says:

    While i think that you make some good points, such as the influence of big money on both parties, i also think you are a little off.

    The clean water protection act, to stop MTR mining, has 71 co-sponsors in the house. 65 are democrats.

    And most of our presidents over the last 40 years have been republicans. Nixon, Ford, Raegan, Raegan, Bush I, Bush II, Bush II…Carter and Clinton were the only Democrats since the advent of the environmental movement in the late 60s. Thats only 12 years of Dem presidential power, Clinton’s later environmental efforts often blunted by a Republican congress.
    Carter passed the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act(SMCRA) in 1977. Clinton signed the roadless rule, which was an initiative to protect roadless areas that would triple the amount of protected wilderness in the nation’s national forests.

    The Dems aren’t perfect, and the dems from WV could stop MTR mining this very second if they weren’t heavily influenced by coal $. But on the national level dems are MUCH more friendly to our cause, and republicans generally much less interested in helping the appalchian people or the appalachian mountains.

    my two cents…

  3. Michelle Schlueter Says:

    Thank you Mr. Randolph! The only thing I would add is this, it’s not only local politics and mining companies who are addicted to coal money. I am from a small town in Virginia. I have watched my town die an agonizing, slow, sad death because of the end of the Coal Boom days of the ’80s. People who live in coal towns are torn. We HATE what mining does to our land, to our lives. But it’s also what puts food in our childrens mouths and roofs over their heads. We can’t stop mining until we have an alternative source of income and it’s clear and eco-tourism isn’t going to be an option given the devastation of our mountains at this point. I flew over my home town once, in a small plane built by my cousin. The only place where there were still trees was along the roads and highways. I had no idea what part of our area I was flying over because there were no recognizable landmarks, just moonscape. As you drive along the roadways you think not so much has changed ….until you drive up into a hollow or a backroad somewhere….

    We arent’ sure we can survive without bloody coal money. So, now what, Ms. Shiplette? Best to put party bicker aside since you know so little about the facts. Try and concentrate on the human aspect, maybe you’ll do a bit better at that….maybe.

  4. Cary Lichtman Says:

    The Real problem behind the problem is that “big Coal” has big $’s to influence politicians in our government. Maybe if so many of those dollars weren’t our dollars (big subsidies for the US Gov’t) and maybe if our politicians weren’t so short-sighted, uneducated of the facts and downright greedy, we wouldn’t be in this mess and the subsidies could have gone into renewable forms of energy to replace coal.

    Fact: 20 pounds of coal per person are being burnt every day to generate electricity. So just imagine your typical suburban neighborhood with every average family of 5 burning 100 lbs of coal per day in their backyards. Imagine the smoke that would create. Do you want to live in that kind of a world? are, you just don’t know it yet.

    Fact: The mining and production of coal for power plants detroys large amounts of real estate, negatively alters those areas forever and effects vast areas downstream form the mining.

    Fact: Coal burning power plants account for more than two-thirds of sulfur dioxide, 22% of nitrogen oxides, nearly 40% of carbon dioxide and a third of all mercury emissions in the United States. Each year coal plants produce about 130 million tons of solid waste, about three times more than all the municipal garbage in the U.S. The American Lung Association calculates that around 24,000 people a year die prematurely from the effects of coal fired power plant pollution.

    Despite all this, we are assured by “Big Coal” and our crooked politicians that there is plenty of coal left to burn. Indeed in a talk to a meeting of builders and contractors at the Capital Hilton on June 8, 2005 President Bush asked the audience, “Do you realize we’ve got 250 million years of coal?” The figure quoted by the coal industry is 250 years of reserves, not 250 million years. The energy illiteracy of the average person is worrying enough, but in our political leadership it is a real cause for concern.

    The USGS, a far more reliable source for estimating geologic reserves puts this figure at a mere fraction as “big coal” does not take into account other factors such as:

    A good percentage of the coal that’s left is too dirty to be burned in conventional power plants and much of its buried in inconvenient places.

    Real world restrictions on mining: state and national parks, roads, towns, proximity to railroads, coal quality, losses during mining and geologic limitations.

    When these are factored in less than 50% of the coal estimated as “recoverable? and available for mining. And even this fails to taken into account how much is economically recoverable at market prices. In a 1989 study by the U.S. Bureau of Mines in Kentucky, at $30 a ton 22% of coal was economically recoverable. The author Tim Rohrbacher wrote “a strong argument can be made that traditional coal producing regions may soon be experiencing resource depletion problems far greater and much sooner than previously thought?.

    So why again are we building coal-fired power plants?

    The coal industry’s promotion of the idea that America has a vast reserve of coal is slowing the transition to clean renewable sources of energy. In addition to tv spots showing child actors extolling the virtues of coal, the industry has spent heavily to get the ear of the political establishment. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company spent over 5% of its revenues on political contributions, for comparison Exxon Mobil and General Motors spent a fraction of one percent.

    In seeming return for such generosity, The Energy Policy Act of 2005 included five billion dollars of subsidies for the coal industry.

    Politicians! Please put that money to better use!
    ie: Wind, Water, Solar, Wave, Nuclear, Geothermal.

  5. Ms. McCoy Says:

    I agree MTR is not good for the environment. However, as a member of a mining community in SWVA, I believe the pros out weigh the cons. I have personally seen the environmental and social impacts of all types of mining; however, until another major industry moves in coal mining is all we have, no matter how badly it damages the mountains we love. Until then, I would like for outsiders to stop trying to shut down the industry which pays for my college education and keeps food on my table.

  6. Mr. Rose Says:

    Until the United States finds a better way to use renewable energy to such an extent that we might find ourselves not dependent upon coal and other natural resources and until the politicians on both a local, state, and federal levels obtain some way of offering jobs that produce 60,000 plus income levels in these areas then “King Coal” is going to be hard to stop. When it comes to having land to enjoy or money to eat they’ll choose money to eat every time. Don’t mess with the purse strings unless you have another way of supporting the purse. The effort to retrain and offer better jobs isn’t out there but on a mediocre political effort. Yes it sees good numbers and statistics during a coal bust period (and with coal its always boom or bust) as soon as the jobs start rolling back so do the people. They put down there books and pick up mining lamps because its quicker easier money and America we know all about that. We don’t prepare for tomorrow and thats why we are facing this today.

  7. Cindy Loo McCrapper Says:

    OMG I LOOOVE UR SITE!! IT ROCKS!!keep up the good work!

  8. Neal Simpkins Says:

    I am disgusted about the devastation that the coal industry is recking locally and worldwide. As far as the mountaintop destruction goes I would make the coal industry pay for a economic study of wind energy at the moonscaped sites. I would also do a study of wind power in the various “Hollows” being looked at for strip mining. Another suggestion is to turnoff applicances, watch less TV, buy more efficient appliances. Coal will never be clean.

  9. M. Osborne Says:

    I have a question for you. If environmentalists are successful (HA!) in stopping the mining of coal, are you then going to organize a plan to feed all the families who depend on it’s production? Or, will you work with the welfare department to intervene on the number of families who will have no choice but to ask for their assistance, and then fix what that does to the economy? Will you pay to relocate the families who will have to move to another state to find work? Will you have the answers for the children who look at their parents and ask, “Why is there no food for us to eat?” What are we supposed to say? Are we supposed to tell them that the pretty mountains are more important than there hungry little bellies. But, when we starve to death, we will have the luxury of being buried beneath their splendid beauty! From one red-neck to a tie wearing rich-boy who has never worked a “hard” day in your life…kiss our coal mining asses!

  10. Bobby Combs Says:

    If is always amazing to me that people and politicians who do not live in the mountains are so worried about the drilling in ANWR and not about the devastation that is happening in Eastern KY and West Virginia. If the Taliban had bombed Eastern KY and West Virginia and did this damage, we would be at war. But its acceptable since its the coal companies. Jobs are crucial yes, mining can be done better. Mountaintop removal uses LESS miners that traditional mining. Dont take my word for it. Look at the amount of miners in the last 15 years. Im sick of the coal industry intimidation and people around here buying that crap. We are people too damnit! What will happen to our homeplace when the coal companies are finished with raping the landscape? What will feed us then? Welfare I guess.

  11. Scott Haas Says:

    Greed can make a person do some rather ugly things. This practice is so morally reprehensible I don’t know what more to say. It leaves me speechless.

  12. H Hackney Says:

    Okay, I am tired of reading all this crap. I live and work in the Kentucky coalfields. First of all let me say Bobby Combs check your math 8 men to run an underground section and no less than 15 to run a MTR operation. That’s almost double, and I didn’t have to go to college to work them big numbers. Second coal is running out, but not nearly as fast as some might have you to believe. Without MTR mining and the flat land with access to there is no where for new industry to settle. Lastly all of those concerned about coal mining call your power company and have your service disconnected. That’s what I thought you’re really not that worried about it. Oh yeah, before I forget the next time all the environmentalists vivit the coal towns of appalachia stay off our roads and airports. Because guess what, we chopped the top right off a mountain to make them!

  13. Jon Fisher Says:

    M. Osborne

    The bottom line is, if this were a long-run profitable
    activity, it wouldn’t need lobbyists with the Bush administration’s ear.

    Good business practices don’t need the protection of White House cronies. Good business is profitable on its own.

    You can say that this kind of mining is keeping food on your table, but that’s just whiny. Plenty of people lose jobs and have to move or learn new skills every day. That’s capitalism. It’s not always easy or fair, but it’s the best thing we’ve got. Coal is bad technology. Better options exist when you factor in the environmental cost paid.

    The way I see it, you’re cheating the system. You’ve got a job at the expense of all of the rest of us. So quit whining and learn to compete in a global economy without bribing our government.

  14. Lance E. Schultz 33 Says:

    I’m proud to say I’m a practicing environmentalist. Yes I do more every day to restore and rebalance the quality of our environment (my enviroment) here in West Virginia for the future of my children and grandchildren. My practice depends on sound engineered reclamation techniques. The same techniques which continue to earn recognition and awards from the regulatory community and beyond for our dedication and professionalism in executing our craft. Yet I continue to observe such high strung emotional environmental extremism predicated on vacuous anecdotes and rhetoric. They are not held accountable for the science. As I said previously, I’m more of a practicing environmentalist and I take water samples everyday from the mountaintop removal mines where I work and where decades of hard-fast objective quantifiable data exists to substantiate the claim that this water (our water) is cleaner as a result of our methods than it was when we found it. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s own numbers on annual sewer overflows for combined sewer systems, EPA estimates that 850 BILLION gallons of raw or only partially treated sewage is discharged annually into local waters including our streams and rivers (my streams and rivers here in West Virginia). Where is the outcry from the left? Where is the heartfelt out-of-town tear jerkers to whoa is me from thousands of miles away? Where is the hill-jack bootleggers grandson to raise those vital questions of restoring public sanitation and the environment. You won’t find it because although it would do more immediately to restore our environmental integrity and quality of life it “doesn’t put anyone out of business.” You see the trouble with all these dope smoking hippy fallouts from the sixties is they don’t really care about the environment at all. Not one of them practice what they preach. They continue to pay their electric bills and drive their cars to work. If Mr. Fisher wasn’t such a hypocrite he couldn’t use the internet because it’s power comes from coal. He claims coal is bad technology and yet productivity rates have reached an astonishing average of more than 6 tons per coal miner per hour, or 48 tons in a single 8-hour day thanks to improvements in mining technology. He pretends to understand capitalism and yet anyone would understand that even coal competes in a global marketplace. Do you think China and India regulate their environments to the standards practiced by West Virginia operators? He claims better options exist but the fact is better options, more economical options DO NOT EXIST especially when you factor in the environmental cost/benefit anaylsis. Coal is by far the cheapest source of power fuel per million Btu, averaging less than one third the price of petrolem and natural gas.

    Surface (MTR) coal – $.03 to $.07/per Kw
    Subsurface coal – $.08 to $.13/per Kw
    Natural Gas – $.17 to $.19/per Kw
    Nuclear Power – $.21 to $.28/per Kw
    Wind Power – $.39 – $.52/per Kw
    Solar Power – $.45 – $.65/per Kw

    The bottom line is Mr. Fisher if you practiced your environmentalism you would permanently cancel your electricity and sell your car, permanently turn off your internet and stop cheating the system by taking advantage of the low cost electricity you enjoy because of the hard-working, God fearing patriots here in West Virginia.

  15. James Greenwood Says:

    IIRC, “big coal” bought politicians in 2003/2004? to the tune of $2.3 Million. 90% of these weasels were Republican.

  16. Lonnie D. Ward Says:

    These fair-weather patriots,who have never worn a uniform,and are only loyal to the God,Guns,and Greed philosophy of Don Blankenship,and will do and say anything to bust the UMWA,WHICH STOOD UP FOR THEM WHEN TIMES WERE HARD.
    It is beyong my comprehension that these people will help to destroy their own homes(these mountains)in pursuit of a paycheck.
    Myth:We have 300 years worth of coal reserves.
    Poor management and mining practices have made a lot of the deep seams of coal unminable re:Crandall Canyon.The mine where I used to work had 20 years worth of reserves,a fully trained work force,an absentee owner in Connecticutt,and a management team who hogged out too much of the support pillars and threw the whole mountain in.All the easy coal has already been burned to fuel the progress of the past,and it can only get harder and costlier,in real and hidden costs from here.

  17. Lonnie D. Ward Says:

    Lies,damn lies,and statistics.Due to improved technology- bigger shovels,bigger trucks,and larger explosive charges,with over-loaded coal trucks pulverizing our roads and bridges,and our mountains being pushed into our streams,we are now mining more tons of coal per year than we did 50 years ago.As a fringe benefit the payroll has been reduced by about 115,000 employees,with the attendant reduction in economic activity in the counties where the coal is.
    The Operators claim they are leaving the land better than God created it,and that should give everyone a measure of their hubris.
    We have ourselves to blame for believing that the days of the frontier,when all we had to do was take what we wanted from an endless supply of resources,are still with us.Unfortunately,supplies are limited and we will start to use less whether we want to or not.I only hope we are smart enough to change our wasteful habits before Nature restores Her supremacy.

  18. jhaygood Says:

    Mr. Schultz, you quote these numbers for various sources of energy:

    Surface (MTR) coal – $.03 to $.07/per Kw
    Subsurface coal – $.08 to $.13/per Kw
    Natural Gas – $.17 to $.19/per Kw
    Nuclear Power – $.21 to $.28/per Kw
    Wind Power – $.39 – $.52/per Kw
    Solar Power – $.45 – $.65/per Kw

    I’m not sure what these numbers mean, I’m guessing you mean kilowatt HOURS? I have a solar PV system on our home. It cost $18,000, with a guaranteed lifespan of 20 years. So dividing that as a monthly cost is $75/mo. I get an average during the year of 416 Kwhs a month, which comes out to $.18/Kwh. Considering all the hidden costs of fossil fuels, I’d say that’s very competitive. Here in California electricity costs an average of $.20/Kwh, so I’m definitely ahead. If the costs of PV systems were wrapped into new home costs, it’s costs would be almost invisble. Your numbers just seem wrong to me…

  19. jhaygood Says:

    Correction to above, California power is priced on usage, getting more expensive as more is used. A closer average is $.15/Kwh, depending on usage.

  20. Larry Thacker Says:

    Do as I say, not as I do

    I love this bunch of elitist coal barons who come in here and run rough shod over the whole area. They see no more than a bunch of dumb hillbilly’s that will swallow any line the coal company’s push in the papers or on TV. It is well know that they do not live in the mess they create. I don’t think the people who own the mineral would allow a strip job in their neighborhood. I don’t think the Coal Corporation owners would either. In the high-class neighborhoods they live in, I don’t think the neighbors would be enthused with it. Of course those kind of neighbors have the power to stop it, we don’t. I don’t even believe the supervisors of these strip jobs live in neighborhoods where stripping is allowed. It’s all according to your class in society. It is their line to push it in other communities and push it as the economic savior of the land, but not in my back yard. Preaching it’s your patriotic duty to king coal to love mountain top removal and valley fills and not say anything bad to hurt the coal industry. Of course they don’t have to live with it, most of the corporations are owned by out of state interest and that is where most of the money goes. Well guess what I don’t like it in my back yard either but I can’t afford to live in an exclusive community where it would not be allowed. I can help organizations that are trying to stop this practice and could care less what a coal baron thinks.

  21. Larry Thacker Says:

    How to Promote Strip Mining

    Was less than neutral about it most of my life, simply did not care one way or another. Then they started stripping right behind my house, right in the community of Lower Pompey. The old railroad bed runs parallel with Pompey Road and they use the Old Rail Roadbed as a haul road. First operation moved in silt pond failed and caused me extensive damage but at least they tried to be good neighbors and fixed it. New operation has left a heavy footprint in the community. One apartment destroyed and one residence blast rock damage that I know of. Started running trucks at night and its is as bad as water boarding, empty tractor trailer beds on the potted dirt road make it impossible to sleep, would have to hear it to believe it. Just for added harassment park trucks and equipment behind house on top of hill in reverse so you can listen to the backup warning horn. I have had large amount of dirt & rock wash onto my property from the water run off from the railroad bed that cuts down an access road. They did a hollow fill right in behind my house, destroyed a whole valley. The dust is terrible in the summer and would not put a water truck on until I called Air quality. Still do not water all the time behind me, more harassment. Silt pond that failed once was built to a greater height and now holds more water behind me. They have changed my attitude about strip mining and I now intend to let everybody know about the practice of Mountain Top Removal and Hollow Fill Mining. The coal industry at large has this operation up here at lower Pompey to thank for people who originally did not care to people who now are going to every publication, organization and forum that will listen to speak out against this type of mining.

  22. Larry Thacker Says:

    Biography of a Cartoon Bug

    Hi, I am the cartoon bug from the Walker/Cat commercial that is now running on TV in this area. I am helping them promote Mountain top Removal and Hollow Fill in WV and East Kentucky. My name is Mr. Bug and I am on that courtroom bench waiting for the gavel to fall, be a merciful end compared to what I have been through. I was living a good life in a cartoon valley with a bunch of other cartoon characters before they did a cartoon mountain top removal and cartoon hollow fill. I drifted around for a while watching my other cartoon buddies find work, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, The Road Runner. No one would hire me because of my relationship with Walker/Cat and Hollow fill mining. You know the liberal, tree hugging Hollywood type’s. The stigma connected with the association killed my acting career. I tried to rehabilitate my career by doing a year in the Peace Corps and joining the Sierra Club and Green Peace. A lot of good it did me. I went to a Hollywood event to raise money to fight Global Warming just to get slapped by Al Gore. Scorned and penniless I had to come back after the Hollow fill was finished. Now I am hung out here on this barren plateau, cold wind blowing up my butt with a bulls eye on my back. The target of every hungry Sparrow and Red Bird that fly’s by. I feel like Bill after he got caught with Monica, everybody is watching me now. I had good cover back in my old cartoon valley. I would love to find me some warm Drift Shaft mine to crawl back into but I got to stay here. They made me do it, tortured me, pulled my wings off, holding my grandpa as hostage at this very moment. Holding a can of Raid on him and threatening to throw him in a bug zapper. I got PTSD, my nerves are shot, took to snorting pills and trying to get on the draw. Thanks a lot Walker/Cat you are singing “Almost Level West Virginia” and I am stuck here singing the blues.

  23. Larry Thacker Says:

    Tree Hugging Hillbillies

    Tree Hugging Hillbillies not to be confused with a ridge runner who is enamored with or has a special relationship with his favorite beech tree. It’s a new breed of semi-unwilling, halfhearted Appalachian environmentalist. Oh, I don’t mean they are strong enough in their convictions to ties themselves to a tree, except of course during deer hunting season and then only to keep from falling out of their tree stand. It’s a latter day generation of mountain folk who where probably raised by a coal miner or in coal country and now has conflicted emotions about this new type of mining called mountain top removal and hollow fill method. Remembering the time when the drift shaft mines were king. They employed thousands and feed us all and formed in us over time some positive convictions about the need for us to be able to mine coal. We don’t do factories, we don’t do textile mills, we don’t grow wheat, we dig coal. They watched the development of auger mines that graded a little ring around the mountain and bored out coal, well just made an easy road to hunt off of. They watched the early stripping for coal when they had to put it back on the original contour, those bald peaks just looked funny and they started to get an uneasy feeling. Now they are doing hollow fills, to cheap to stack the overburden back up on the mountain and filling the valleys they used to hunt in or where they just got back to nature when they had to do some serious thinking. Torn between two worlds, the old type of mining that feed them and did not completely destroy the environment and this new type of mining that is supposed to be their new life’s blood and economic savior. Now we have this new type of creature down here in Dogpatch, the reluctant or halfhearted tree hugger.
    It seems awkward and makes them feel out of place to say anything negative about any kind of coal mining yet generations of ancestors living in valleys has given them a genetic makeup predisposed to living in valleys, not on plateau’s. If they had wanted to be flat landers they could have moved 100 miles north or south or have stayed out of state when they had to do the Route 23 Exodus during the bad ol days when the coal business was down. Strange times we live in, strange creatures, these hillbilly tree huggers.

  24. Larry Thacker Says:

    Strip Mining including Mountain Top Removal on an Army Corps of Engineer flood control project is something I can’t wrap my small mind around. The two just do not go together Strip Mining the watershed off a Flood Control Project. The Fishtrap Dam in Pike County Kentucky was construted at great cost and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers “Federal Tax Payers Money”, the dam was constructed for the sole purpose of providing flood protection for the Big Sandy Valley. The dam failed to fulfill its mission in 1977 when millions of dollars of damate was done downstream of the dam. If the dam could have held back the waters of the Levisa Fork until the Russel Fork waters had passed by I feel the damage down stream would have been far less. There has been continuous stripping on the Corps controlled property up at Fishtrap since the 77 flood event. If we get another 77 type flood event I feel that Pikeville Kentucky will be sharing the same zip code as Prestonsburg Ky. A permit has been issued to a coal company to strip a 6000 foot stream up at Fishtrap Dam that runs into the Lake. From the looks of the topography and from current practice I feel this will be a Mountain Top Removal & Hollow Fill. Even if it was just regular stripping it should not be going on in a Army Corps of Engineers FLOOD CONTROL PROJECT. Here is a little exercise you can do, pull up google earth and type in Fishtrap Dam in Pike County Kentucky. Pan down to the lake at the dam parking lot area and follow the mountain lake and river all the way back to the headwaters. Scan or pan side to side as you follow the lake upstream. Even though this is old footage and taken from 25,000 feet you will beging to see the awful destruction of the watershed when you beging to understand the scale. If Mountain Top Removal and Hollow Fills can’t be stopped on Army Corps of Engineer Flood Control Projects, where can they be stopped. Is it just me or does this make sense to everybody stripping the watershed of a flood control project. What was the point of building that dam in the first place and why are we wasting the tax payers dollars. You do not have to be a hydroligist to understand this is crazy. The sediment fill rate is greatly accelerated by the stipping operations. The lake will fill to the point of uselessness. Again 30 years of stripping since 77 and the dam did not in my opinion live up to its mission then. Its just crazy here!

  25. Larry Thacker Says:

    For the above post, need the flat land for industry, you just swallowed another big lie by big coal. If you build an industrial park you should have your companies lined up before you make a big piece of flat land for them. You also need more than a big pice of land fill. You need Water and Sewer and for industry you need an expensive power distribution system. The cost of 3 phase power for a large plant is huge. You need a good road up to the site in other words you are millions of dollars away from an industrial site just because you have a piece of flat land out in the boon docks. Here in Pike County we do not have rail service for freight, yes coal but no freight. We do not have roads in or out close enough to a major Inter-State, we do not have an airport. Business exec’s will not drive 3 hours from Lexington to come in here. I AM NOT AGAINST COAL, just this particular type of mining and I am old enough to have seen the thousands of miners it took to mine coal with drift and shaft mining. When we had drift and shaft we employed 10 to 1 what it takes to strip. Cheapness, Cheaapness just to plain cheap to even put it back on the original contour. Coal company’s will just push the crap into a pristine valley and ruin it forever to save a few bucks. They outlawed hydraulic mining out west in the late 1800’s, they decided when the ore played out or was to expensive to mine without destroying a whole mountain, then leave it. This is the most destructive type of mining ever and the company’s that are doing it will be seen for what they are. My people come into this county in the late 1890’s. We have had a coal corporation foot on our throat for over a hundred years. I was born in a coal company house, delivered by a coal company doctor, my father died in a roof fall mining coal. I worked in the coal business. I have the intelligence, the right and the obligation to tell you that Mountain Top Mining is the worst thing that the coal corporations have ever done to us. Its as wrong as wrong can be and even that stupid cartoon bug on the walker/cat commercial is wrong. Thats a cartoon bug, it ain’t real. That is what they think of your intelligence, you will listen to a cartoon bug and do a mountain top removal and a valley field. They don’t have the real animals that live in a valley on that commercial telling you its ok, we will be back after the valley fill. GROW UP, nothing is coming back, not the plant life, not the aquatic life, not the tree’s or any of the animals. “IT IS BURIED”, gone forever. No plant, no housing development unless its all lined up before the fill is done and the coal company foots the bill for the infra-structure. Will they do that “HELL NO” they are to cheap, if they wanted to go to that kind of expense they would have just put it back on the original contour. Get on google earth and type in Fishtrap Dam in Pike County, even form 25,000 feet a fool can see the destruction of that watershed. That is on an Army Corps of Engineer Flood Control project. It is starting to look like a moon scape. I did not just fall off a truck or was born yesterday. I live right below a hollow fill that killed a valley that was teaming with life. Buried 200 years of family and county heritage along with the wild life. If you people want to listen to this Coal Corporation propaganda, do what you got to do. That money goes out of state and does nothing for our economy. Those people don’t live in or around strip jobs. They don’t mess their own nest, they come down here and crap where we eat. Drift and Shaft mines employ 20 times more people and those paydays go straight into the local economy. The same amount of money goes into the general fund and coal severance, you just don’t have to destroy the place we have to live in after the coal is gone. I am not against coal, but this kind of mining is a sin against nature and a crime against humanity. A crime against humanity becase our kids will never see the place as our ancestors found it. They will never get to stand on a ridge in the spring or in the fall when the colors are on and see it as I got to see it. If you don’t have any more intelligence than to listen to a cartoon bug, then blow the tops off these mountains and fill every damn valley down here. I just want my kids to know I had nothing to do with it and tried to stop it. I also want them to know that I am smart enough not to listen to a cartoon bug or a coal corporation.

  26. Larry Thacker Says:

    Under the Microscope

    It used to be because of our isolation from the rest of the country we might as well have been part of the Amazon Jungle or deepest darkest Africa. News about this area traveled slowly and was most times incorrect. The stereotypical hillbilly was cast in northeastern newspapers mainly because of the sensationalism and yellow press reporting of the Hatfield & McCoy feud. The English, Scots-Irish and German descendants who come into East Kentucky from old Virginia were somewhat clannish because of their isolation and the culture they brought with them from the old country. However if you do an in depth study of the region you will find that for the most part people here were as civilized as they were in other parts of the country.
    This stereotype is perpetuated in films and documentaries created by some liberal organizations that come in here and live off grant money and corporate donors. The money is most time given in a genuine desire to help the area and not intended for the specific purpose of embarrassing us or showing us in a bad light. One organization over in Whitesburg Ky. will make a film documentary after digging up the most severe situation to build their film around and present it as if the whole regions lives like this. They do us a genuine disservice and other than stroking their own liberal ego’s waste of lot of money that could be put to a greater good.
    I know that TV and the Movie’s have always done as much to perpetuate this image as much as else and that people are conditioned now to believing what has been presented about this region as the way it actually is. However it is doing us great harm now as most of the country sees us as a backwater uneducated mountain region occupied by slovenly clad illiterate hillbilly’s who spend most their time drinking moonshine and feudin. That image now is being replaced by pill snorting methheads whose only goal in life is to draw a check and stay stoned. Again some liberal do good’ers think they are going to make a documentary that will get them some kind of award at the Sundance film festival.
    I am hoping at some point the country will start taking us seriously and will actually admit that we are a part of this country’s history and legacy. The legacy I hope will not be the one of an environmental disaster that was allowed to happen to a region because nobody actually cared what went on down there. Robert Kennedy comes down here to highlight poverty in the region during his brother’s run for president. Lyndon Johnson actually did something about it with his great society program and his war on poverty. By in large the area has not had much positive media attention since that era.
    I fear the next time the national media and consciousness turns to the East Kentucky and West Virginia coal fields we will be just a shadow of our former ecological self. The deciduous forest filled with abundant wildlife and clear mountain streams are under assault from large coal corporations who see only us in the light of the afore mentioned stereotype. Most of the mineral is owned by out of state interest, as are most of the large coal corporations. They have the large budgets dedicated to promoting Mountain Top Removal and Valley Filling as being beneficial to the economy locally and coal being the alternative to oil as the energy source of the future nationally. The local spots are simplistic in nature with little cartoon bugs saying they can come back to a Valley Fill after the valley is filled. Another one is how much we need the flat land they create for us in order to obtain some industrial complex or housing development site. We have had enough flat land created for us by them now to put every default mortgage property on that was created by the sub-prime housing melt down. We have enough flat land to fulfill the industrial needs of China if they wanted to build here, since we don’t actually build anything anymore and nothing industrial has ever been built on one yet we are becoming to be a little suspicious of the argument. They forget to tell the natives down in dogpatch that it takes millions of dollars to develop an industrial site even if someone needs one. A piece of hard packed flat land with a little weed mix sprayed on it is hardly a Christmas gift. Of course the national commercial productions are a little slicker and sophisticated but they fail to show the nation where the coal is coming from or how they are mining it.
    It will only be through environmental organizations that counter this message can the land here can be saved. I am hoping the collective public relations assets of all the environmental groups can start doing something on the national level to highlight what is being done to this region. I applaud what certain organizations are doing legally and how all environmentalists are keeping abreast of the problem on blog sites between themselves. I feel however the national consciousness needs to be pinched much as it was done in the civil rights era in order for the country to get more emotional about it. The crowning jewel of public relations would be for someone to take up the cause in a national presidential election much as the Kennedy’s or Johnson did. Due to our sparse population and voting base I do not see the Mountain Top Removal cause being taken up in the near future.
    If a presidential candidate would take it up even as a peripheral problem connected with coal Co2 emissions being the prime culprit I feel it would augment his/her argument for alternative clean fuel technology if that is part of their platform. It would also highlight this ecological disaster that is occurring in East Kentucky and West Virginia. I will reiterate, the nation needs to see the region for what it is and they need to see Mountain Top Removal for what it is. I believe the national consciousness will be so repulsed by it that a changed will forced at the federal level to stop it. Even on the legal front I believe it will make litigation against coal corporations more effective.

  27. Michael Says:

    I don’t get it. In most counties, less than 7% of the land has or will be mountaintopped; most is under 3%. What is the difference between that and the ecological change brought on by urban areas that occupy far greater percentages of land? These urban areas are one of the drivers for mountaintop mining or any coal mining; these people demand the electricity.

    One thing about it, the USA can do just about anything. We put a man on the moon so if we want to elimanate MTR or even drastically reduce coal fired electricity pollutants, we can do it. Just be prepared to pay 10 or 20 times your current electric bill. Wind, solar, nuclear all have many years of research before they are viable so don’t even think that will solve your problems in our lifetime. Just pay up and we can do it. Be glad to.

    One final thought; do you know what the number one producer of mercury emissions is? Note how all the green websites always use the term industry for noting that coal fired electricity generation produces mercury emissions. Forest fires produce far more mercury emissions so maybe we should cut down all the trees????

  28. milton aliff Says:

    HEY, I bet your feelings would change if you were here, as a resident, and the view you had looked upon all your life was being blasted away, the explosions and smoke clouds just like dropping the 500 pounders in afghanistan shaking your house several times a week. To go outside at night and see the lights on the giant equipment on your horizon, the constant droning of the trucks and equipment filling the air. The black cloud over everyones head that still has the will to look up. Would youlike to have a family owned property that is loosing value everyday? No, I did not think so. Having only one school in the community that has not been torn down or closed due to the lack of children because so many hundreds of families have had to leave the state for work or unwilling to live under the terrorism of big coal anymore. Just where are all these jobs that coal mining the MTR way provides? HUH? All the stores and other businesses that have closed the doors due to lack of customers? Would anyone care to answer why it is that since Massey Energy came to the area with its union busting ways that that the towns and communities have become a shadow of their former selves? Yes, we all have seen the mine wars that were fought here in the mid and late 1980,s that left people with houses shot up , autos destroyed. the men who were jumped and beaten till they were unrecognizable. Yes there was great evil done upon both sides of the war. The loser, most would agree is everyone but the few who went to work for Massey w/o being laid off later or crippled or killed on the job due to the outstanding regard for men that the Massey co has. Yes I will stand for mountains, the people, those who have no ability or means to fight. Political parties mean nothing at all as long as big coal can buy its way. The current administration has the most pathetic excuse for a mine board in recent memory. Even flagrant violations can get nowhere in this climate. Lawyers are hanging their head with a sigh beacause they know they will not be heard in washington. But I leave the original feeling that had me start this response. I know the rest of the country will not see the truth about our situation due to the media and their lack of ability to cover any of this. They cant! Many have sold their souls to king coal. Many many times have concerned residents tried to get them to check on our situation in the coal fields and report their findings to no avail. We know we are next on the list to be terrorized because of the gas companies running rampant in the area drilling wells and laying miles of pipe to move the gas out of here and to de-gasify the coal beds. Yet we cannot get natural gas for heating our homes in this area. WV should have a sign that reads WV, it,s FOR SALE! Make an offer. Our bought and paid for governor will contact you.
    Sigh, this is enough for now but I will pray for an end to destruction of our land. Funny how the big name eco groups have not came here to get the word out. No matter what all the groups do to try to fight for what they believe in no major media groups will show it to the country. We can hardly get a mention even on the local news unless someone gets arrested.
    goodnight all

  29. Larry Thacker Says:

    Well Mike, let me tell you the difference between a mountain top removal and an urban development. An urban development is a place necessary for humans to live, you know cover, warmth and security close to a worksite. A Mountain Top Removal that also includes a valley fill is a cheap attempt to stay competitive with western coalfields that have 10 times less sulfur in their coal and thick seams that lay close to the surface and land that is already flat. A mountain top removal is done only to compete or to try to obtain some kind of cost equity with western coal competition. No eastern coal company will ever tell you that. They are supposed to put the overburden back on the mountain with original contour stripping and did for years. It’s just cheaper to push the overburden into a pristine valley and cover up a fresh water stream. No one gives damn about a coal company’s bottom line especially when the money for the most part goes out of state. In drift shaft at least we get a little trade off, more miners putting real money into local communities. You do not do MTR’s just for cost effectiveness and justify the environmental damage.
    We destroy a lot of mountains when we try to build a good road in or out of here. That also is a necessary part of modern life, the need for safe efficient transportation. There is absolutely no need to do MTR’s on the 7% they have already done as you say, except for greed. If MTR is stopped they will mine like they are supposed to, oil at 106 a barrel, you bet your sweet a*# they will go underground and mine it if that is the only way we allow them to get if. Out west when the ore weather it be silver or gold got down to a certain level per ton they did not blow up their mountains just to get the last grain. They stopped hydraulic mining out there a hundred years ago. Even in the Appalachian mountains of the north or south, just try this crap. Try to do MTR, in New York State, Pennsylvania or any other part of the Appalachian chain. What makes the coal corporations think they can come down to W.Va or East Kentucky and get by with it long term.
    If you believe the hogwash about raising utility rates if you stop MTR then you just contradicted yourself. If we are only doing 7-3% MTR and 65% of the steam coal comes from out west, how do you see an increase over the 7-3%? If you stop MTR they will still strip just have to put it back on the original contour, they will not stop mining it, just cost them a little more than getting to shove all the overburden into a pristine valley. They run some pretty slick commercials for national consumption, scaring people about cost and losing the electricity. Down here in Ky. And W.Va. they just use cartoons. Which one did you fall for.

  30. Kelly O. Says:

    Please read this article and the other articles linked within it:
    “Don Blankenship: Seventh Scariest Person in America”

  31. PATRICK Says:


  32. Caroll Shelby Says:

    I like what yall are doing here. This is an important topic. We here at SHELBY COBRA are very interested and are working on a hybrid mustang. e-mail me for ideas or comments.
    Caroll Shelby

    my e-mail is
    anybody can send me something.i’m listed as Matt Oltray just for protection against hackars. Thanks!

  33. Dr. Nancy Manring Says:

    Can you send me a direct link to any of the pro-mountain top mining commercials by Walker/Cat (the cartoon bug, etc.)

    I’d love to show my students. (When I first saw the cartoon bug on TV I thought I was hallucinating at first).

    Nancy Manring

  34. Bob White Says:

    Before today I never heard of mountain top removal mining. I am shocked in two ways. First because I never heard of it and even more because it exists. Every year I travel from my home in Pennsylvania to Florida and I pass through West Virginia on Rt 79 and 19 and 76 and all I notice is beautiful mountain scenery and think of John Denver songs.

    I know many people from West Virginia because of pitching horseshoes with them both in WV and PA. Years of visiting the state and meeting with many residents and driving through and still no clue about MTR! I admit I am not much of a detective but it seems to me that you are seriously in need of public exposure if you ever want that tragic rape of your land to stop. And it must stop. From what I have read today both here and other websites, it is obvious that this has the potential to spread like a cancer througout the entire Appalachia range and even farther.

    This is an election year. It’s a perfect time to make noise about this and make it a campaign issue in every contested race from local to state to national. Speak out now or forever regret the loss. The vast majority of people in America will understand that this practice exists only because of greed and corruption and that the mountains, valleys, streams and people are far more important than a few dollars in some corporate bottom line and in the pockets of some corrupt bottom feeding pubic servants. Let the people know and the polititians will have to respond or lose their jobs.

  35. You are connected to mountaintop removal | informacion relacionada a google Says:

    […] the American people could see what I have seen from the air and ground during my many trips to the coalfields of Kentucky and West Virginia: leveled mountains, devastated communities, wrecked economies and […]

  36. Al Justice Says:

    The bottom lines:
    …central Appalachia is being sacrificed for coal.
    …regions on the perimeter, not the core producing region is benefiting though the wealth flowing from the coal.
    …the economies of the core region are devastated already, and the dysfunctional politics of the region are supporting the environment.
    …fresh water in adjacent regions, will suffer. Remember the dust bowl. Actually farmers in Oklahoma could not accept their role either.
    … central Appalachia is among the oldest most diverse mountains on earth.

  37. eve1979 Says:

    “Well Mike, let me tell you the difference between a mountain top removal and an urban development. An urban development is a place necessary for humans to live, you know cover, warmth and security close to a worksite.” (Larry)

    “You can say that this kind of mining is keeping food on your table, but thats just whiny. Plenty of people lose jobs and have to move or learn new skills every day. Thats capitalism.” (John Fisher)

    So I guess that Appalachians must not be human, and therefore do not deserve places to live, jobs, warmth and security close to a worksite. Wow, what a hypocritical peice of selfish, arrogant shit you are. What Micheal was trying to say, Larry, is that people from all over this country have mined thier land, destroyed thier natural beauty, and built and developed upon the aftermath. Now they come to us, telling us how we’re too stupid to know what’s good for us and we’re just being lied to by “King Coal”. We must be brainwashed, that’s it!! It’s repulsive, to be honest with you.

    And for John Fisher:

    I’m not the type of person that wishes for bad things to happen to people, but for you I’ll make an exception.

    The day that someone threatens to take not only your livelyhood but the livelyhood of everyone around you, I hope they tell you to quit your whining. The day that your heart drops in your stomach, because you don’t think your going to be able to give your child the life you imagened, I hope someone tells you that your just being a baby. I hope that a day comes when people (who think your less than dirt anyway) try to take everything you’ve worked for from you. That’s life, sorry. My college professor said it so it must be so. You’re just too subhuman to know what’s good for you anyway…….haha stupid rednecks.

    You guys seem to live in some sort of fairy tale were jobs come easy, and the mountain behind your house is more important that the lives of thousands of people. Oh sure, all of those surface miners will have a job just waiting for them at some other company where they have zero training/experience when they’re 56 years old! There’s no problem!! La la la le la di doo!

    Some of you want to stick our miners back underground. You can blow your statistics out your ass, anyone who lives here knows that underground miners have one of the hardest, unhealthy, and most dangerous jobs on the planet.

    There’s nothing wrong with being an enviromentalist. There’s nothing wrong with people working with the mining industry to try to find ways of better protecting the enviroment. There’s nothing wrong with promoting awareness of the impact of MTR. T
    There’s something wrong with being a selfish, unsympathetic half ass enviromentalist who’s main contribution is to troll on the internet and upset other people who REALLY have something to lose. Do you understand what I mean? You have an opinion, an agenda. That’s not a whole lot of stake compared to your opposition; people who stand to lose a lot more than a belief….DO YOU GET IT?

    But you have your job, warmth and security don’t you? If it’s not happening to you, then why should you care about anyone else?

  38. eve1979 Says:


    be an eviromentalist, in whatever form. But don’t sit there and stratch your head, wandering why someone who stands to lose so much would disagree with you. At least have the ability to put yourself in someone elses shoes.

    If your honestly too selfish to understand why people who live in a mining community aren’t overjoyed with the idea of having to find a new job where they would be the lowest paid, bottom of the ladder after years of building a career in a certain industry, and possibly having to pick up and move away for said crappy job….then you just need to keep your mouth shut.

  39. CarlaD80 Says:

    “The day that your heart drops in your stomach, because you dont think your going to be able to give your child the life you imagened,”

    And just what type of life do you imagine for your children, eve? Does it include the possibily of birth defects, and a polluted environment to grow up in?

    Indeed, plenty of people lose jobs and have to move, or learn new skills everyday. Thats LIFE.

    That may not be fair, but it’s not fair for the rest of the population to have to suffer the consequences -the destruction, pollution, or poisoning- due to the dirty coal industry, either.

    We are moving into cleaner, sustainable energy to preserve the very land that sustains the people. It’s not going to be easy for those who are stuck in the old ways. But everyone will have to adapt and grow with it. The only way to go now, is forward.

  40. Larry Thacker Says:

    Stopping MTR will not destroy the coal buseness in E. Ky. It will force them to mine it like we did for over 100 years without destroying the deciduous forest of Central Appalachia. Yes you can blow up mountains and push them over into pristine valley’s and cover up fresh water streams for about 4 dollars a ton. Yes it takes about 20 dollars a ton to mine coal with the underground method and it will raise the price of a ton of coal. It will also cause the coal corporations to hire about 5 times as many men to mine it and put some real money back into these communities in the Southeastern Coal Fields. They mine coal right now both strip and underground and sometimes by the same coal corporation at the same time. The MTR method could not be done under the 77 Surface Mine Act, had to be adopted by admiistrative order bought by coal corporation lobbyist. It is a relatively new practice when compared to the span of time we have been mining in these mountains ad was even in 77 illegal, you had to put the overburden back on the original contour. It is not like we are taking something away that is established as a proper mining technique. What George Bush did to the Clean Water portion of the EPA regs and the 77 Surface and reclamation Act we can change by administrative order. The so called midnight regs every presidet rams through for his lobby friends.
    We can mine coal right and have more jobs doing it. The coal is owned by out of state interest, the coal corporations are owned by out of state interest. The only real money we ever had in the coal communtiy was when about every house in every hollow had an underground miner in it.
    In the early 80’s when oil dropped to $20 a barrel and the bottom dropped out of the coal market is when the Eastern coal corporations truned to Moutain Top Removal Stripping to keep up with the Western Low sulfur coal market dumping steam coal on the market cheaper than they could mine it underground.
    Guess what it is easier to strip 80 to 100 ft. thick seams on prarie lands than to strip in the mountains in deciduous forest. It is also easier to reclaim grass land than deciduous forest, don’t mean you can do MTR just of try to compete at the expense of the environment and clear water streams.
    If you stop MTR they will mine it right, like we did for over 100 years. The coal is in the ground, paid for and they are paying unmined mineral tax on it. You trying to tell me they will just let it lay there if there is a demand.
    My family susistance farmed before they logged the first cut timber and run it down the river to cattletsburg. When the coal was discovered we mined coal. My father died in the mines. You tell me we can’t do anything else but mine coal for a living. The rest of the country has a lot more than we do and they don’t mine coal.
    Coal corporations have exploited this area for over 100 years and still have their foot on our throats. Damn a coal corporation and a coal job, we can dig the stuff for them as we always have. We take any bone they throw us and dig with it. We just don’t have to destroy the place our fathers handed down to us for a coal corporations bottom line anymore. Mine it right or leave it in the ground.

  41. John Says:

    I live in Appalachia and im curious as to how the coal industry has brought poverty to Appalachia. The coal companies provide millions anually in tax dollars and many high paying jobs. The high poverty levels are noy due to coal, I can name several companies that I have visited in the last two months that have multiple job openings that have gone unfilled because the majority of people can’t pass a drug test, and also people have gotten used to getting a handout from the government, people dont want to work. Why would a company be interested in moving to a place where they couldn’t find hardworking employees that could pass a drug test.

    I am a Mining Engineering student at The University of Kentucky. I have news for the environmentalist that think coal will disappear in the next decade or so; Your Wrong. Coal is here for the long haul, If cap and trade passes, guess who will pay the bill, you the final consumer. The company burning the fuel will be the one who will be charged the tax, in turn they will charge three or four times what they do now per kw-hour. So your electric bill will triple.

    As we move into the future there are many things that need to be discussed in order to improve our overall economic and energy situation. We need to look into renewable resources, at the time there are multiple clean uses for coal; coal liquification and gasification can be improved to burn cleaner and offer independance from the middle east oil companies. Carbon capture technology is here and available in the future, projects to build the future power plants are already in the works. These uses for coal will reduce pollutantant emissions and would bennefit our nation by making us more energy independant and create jobs here at home.

  42. Lorien MacAuley Says:

    Who’s up for solar panels, anyone?

    In West Virginia, the coal industry is really good at one thing: intimidating people. They say they have jobs, jobs, jobs. The truth is, MTR coal mining employs only a tiny fraction of underground mining, and the numbers of jobs are inflated by the coal lobby to exaggerate their numbers. Coal miners are encouraged to be angry (and thus irrational) about regulation, which they get uber-emotional about, and are encouraged by their bosses to think of as an attempt to starve their family. The companies even pay miners to show up at hearings in their reflective uniforms, like the Army Corps of Engineers hearing in Charleston in October, and threaten death to those who have legitimate anti-coal statements. They tend to forget that their larger community has been wiped out by the boom-bust cycles of coal, and the coal companies are responsible for the bad shape of their own hometown. They don’t have options. Because they are one of the lucky few who may have a fairly decent job (if you can stand your body wasting away), they are desperate to hold on to it because there are so few options. The coal companies really benefit from the sheer desperation that they themselves have created. They have a clear incentive to keep creating that desperation – if you were a smart business person, wouldn’t you notice and enjoy this position of advantage? The coal companies are shrewd, savvy business people who very deliberately create this situation. But so are we. This must change. They can’t keep doing this to our communities.

    I believe in Appalachia, and I believe in the people of Appalachia overcoming their fear of these blatant intimidation/control tactics, and beating this sickly situation.

    This is why solar panels shall prevail! And conserve… get energy-efficient applicances, retrofit your home, doors, windows, etc, and CONSERVE. We must squash the argument “Coal, it keeps the lights on…” well it only takes a small community-owned wind turbine to heat and light a holler of energy-efficient homes! So let’s move on the next thing and defeat the coal industry’s dirty tactics. I just want you to know… I just turned my lights off, man!

  43. Tommy Wimer Says:

    What is the difference between stripping the mountainside for coal or stripping the mountainside to put in a big box store/shopping complex? I believe the coal industry pays it employees much more than any of the big box stores/shopping centers. How many people do you see fighting against a big Super-Walmart, or a strip mall going in where they stripped away the trees & earth to build their big mammoth stores? People you need to get a life and leave the Coal Miners alone. I love mountains too, but I would much rather see coal mining going on, than seeing a shopping center going in which destroys the earth as much as coal mining. There is no difference. If your gonna fight against one company for doing something, then you need to fight against all, and not just single out the ones that don’t cater to your lifestyle.

  44. Lance Schultz Says:

    Nothing infuriates the GAIA worship enviro’s like the Word of God:

    “Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff. Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel. When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will NOT forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together: that they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.”
    [Isaiah 41:14-20]

  45. Benji Says:

    Lance Schultz – Does that mean surface mining coal companies are doing gods work? The way I read that passage, it says that GOD will thresh the mountains, not coal companies.

    I think the companies are just making a quick profit, paying a small group very well, and poisoning peoples water and permanently impoverishing Appalachian communities in the process.

    Coal miners deserve safe, good paying jobs, and coalfield communities deserve clean drinking water and a prosperous future. In the long term, mountaintop removal coal mining and its associated valley fills certainly do not provide these things.

    Lets work TOGETHER for a clean, safe, and prosperous future for Appalachian people!

  46. Lance Schultz Says:

    “How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver” Proverbs 16:16 King Solomon

    Speaking as personified wisdom, Solomon wrote: “Receive my instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.”

    Proverbs 8:10-11

    Lloyd Blankfein is doing the work of God. The God of mammon. The God of rebellion. The God of perdition. The God of the flesh. The God of the Beast of Babylon’s snare.

  47. Joe Smith Says:

    I noticed a line that said “there was no way that Appalachian communities could rebuild an economy from the barren moonscapes the strip industry left behind.” That is interesting considering that if it wasn’t for coal mining certain parts of Appalachia would have no economy.
    Nice picture that you have up there as well. Nice to see how people always show the during production pictures and never show the pictures of 3 to 5 years later after the coal company has stopped mining. The pictures where the grass has grown back. Trees have been replanted. And don’t forget the industrial parks and air ports that are built on an area of land that before was so steep a person could barely walk on. Interesting.

  48. Attorney Says:

    If there is one thing that is becoming abundantly clear, it’s that giant corporations are only concerned with he bottom line. there care not at all how they increase it, even if the approach is unethical, immoral, or even illegal. Of course, they always like to pretend they are good stewards of the planet for public show, but those false facades are eroding rapidly.

  49. Samara Sandage Says:

    This is true for most people. Most people want to be eco-friendly but for the most part at least currently sometimes going green is not financially a good idea.

  50. Tom Griffin Says:

    I had no idea it was that bad! Miners have actually LOST jobs due to “mountaintop removal” (but it’s no disguise for strip mining). I have family in West Virginia who staunchly repeat the Republican mantra of “It’s jobs, folks.” Yet the mining unions have 1/10 their 1966 membership? How shameless can you get? And Mitt Romney told bald-faced lies about this during his campaign. Bet Big Coal was a huge contributor just like they were for Dubya. It makes me sick…and sad for this country.

  51. Jim Says:

    It is a difficult one. What if the people or companies that pillage the beautiful land are forced to allocated funding on regeneration or other green initiatives that give back to the community and nature?

  52. kynative Says:

    The cost of cal far exceeds the benefits. I can appreciate the perspectives of those work in the industry, and at the same time ask that they give the same consideration to all those effected by the lasting and far reaching consequences of coal, from extraction to burning. Harvard estimated the healthcare costs of coal to exceed 300 billion annually, with thousands of people’s lives forever changed by lung disease, heart disease, neurological damage in newborns, etc. Look at the data, at the emissions from coal plants, mercury, lead, etc, into our air, water, fisheries, our bodies, reaching far beyond the mines and plants, not only harming us, but future generations. And mountaintop removal mining destroys communities, destroys mountains, streams, rivers, water reservoirs, leaving polluted land, and when the coal is gone, where will the jobs be then? Coal receives billions in tax subsidies, costs billions in healthcare costs, they even have taxes foot the bill when they have their common accidents, spills, etc. Coal is not cheap, it is not clean, and there are better alternatives. The wind industry already employs as many as the coal industry does, and they receive a fraction of the corporate welfare coal gets. The jobs are lasting, as is the energy source, creating higher tax revenues and greater more sustainable energy independence. Much coal in the west is not even intended for the US, they will ship it to China where it will be burned to make more junk that will be shipped back here, along with the plant emissions that will reach the US in a matter of weeks. The coal industry has destroyed jobs along with land and health with mountaintop removal mining, as miners are replaced with machines. The mountains are not theirs to destroy, and neither is our air, water and health. It is wrong, morally and economically to destroy our resources, communities, and health for the benefit of the few.

  53. Vaporizer Pen Says:

    I agree MTR is not good for the environment. However, as a member of a mining community in SWVA, I believe the pros out weigh the cons. I have personally seen the environmental and social impacts of all types of mining; however, until another major industry moves in coal mining is all we have, no matter how badly it damages the mountains we love. Until then, I would like for outsiders to stop trying to shut down the industry which pays for my college education and keeps food on my table.

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