Whitesburg KY

Pluses for mountaintop mining

To the Editor:

I think that it is high time for someone to speak up and say something about those people around Lexington and Winchester running around carrying signs saying save our mountains, and coming up here with their great speeches saying, stop surface mining now, etc.

If they have any mountains down there then I say by all means save them, and if they have any surface mining put a stop to it. If not, we’d appreciate it if they would quit calling them their mountains. They are our mountains, they belong to us dumb hillbillies.

I know that those people consider us mountain folks to be just a bunch of dumb hillbillies. However I would rather be a dumb hillbilly than to be an educated fool. A dumb hillbilly can’t read big words, but he can think big thoughts; on the other hand an educated fool can read big words but he can’t think big thoughts, but enough of that. The Lord being my helper I want to try to look at this question from an honest and sensible way.

The first thing that I want us to look at is the environmental factor. Are we going to destroy the mountains of eastern Kentucky? I say absolutely not. There will be mountains in eastern Kentucky as long as time stands. It would take a thousand bulldozers working day and night at least 10,000 years to make a dent in them.

The next thing that I want to examine is the property value. A few years ago I owned a home in the country here in Perry County. With this home I had a deed for a tract of land described as eight acres more or less. This was all mountain forested land. The question is, what was this land worth? As far as I was concerned all it was worth to me was something to pay taxes on. If this had been flat land it would have been worth a small fortune.

Now let us look at the economic factor. I can only speak for Hazard and Perry County. The place where Wal-Mart is a leveled off mountaintop. This home for Super Wal-Mart, a Lowes, and numerous other businesses, as well as several banks, two major automobile dealers, a motel, and a mobile home dealer. This supplies about 4,000 or 5,000 people good paying jobs. I think that is worth much more than a mountaintop.

There are other smaller shopping centers, Hazard Village, Town & Country, Daniel Boone Plaza, Black Gold Plaza which is home for a major medical center, two banks, and several other businesses. This also translates into about a thousand or more good paying jobs not counting doctors and nurses.

The place where ARH Hospital is located is a leveled off mountaintop. This section also contains several other businesses as well as one motel and two major restaurants, Ponderosa and Cliff Hagans. This is another source of many good paying jobs.

The East Kentucky Veterans Center is located on a leveled off mountain. This contains one hotel, a National Guard armory and several other businesses. There are several residential subdivisions containing many good homes some worth a million or two million dollars.

Now let us look at the question of surfacing mining. The lame argument that they put up is you can get coal by deep mining. That is true. The fact of the matter is however, that deep mining is much more hazardous than surface mining, I would say about 50 to one. Besides the danger of roof falls and gas pockets, you have the matter of black lung. My father died in 1929 at the age of 47 years, a young man. His terminal illness was diagnosed as tuberculosis. I was only eight years of age at the time and the only thing that I could think about was sorrow and grief. As I grew older and began to think about this matter I have become firmly convinced that his death was due to black lung. He was an underground miner and black lung was unknown at that time.

So after I tried to examine this matter carefully I find nothing here but pluses. To level off a few mountains makes our property more valuable, it gives us jobs, it saves the lives of our miners and in general makes life more worthwhile. So let us say to the flatlanders who call us dumb hillbillies if they want to. That is their privilege. The only thing that I have to say to them is, “A dwarf on top of a mountain is still a dwarf.” It’s not a matter of where you are, It’s a matter of what you are.

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