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Smith in favor of mountaintop development




To the Editor:

My name is Ancel “Hardrock” Smith, State Representative of the 92nd Legislative District, which represents 38,000 people in Knott, Magoffin, and Letcher counties. I am vice chair of the Transportation Committee and also serve on the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, the Tourism and Economic and Development Committee, Local Government Committee, Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee, and the Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation Committee.

Colonel Keith Landry, I appreciate you coming to eastern Kentucky to hear our pleas and comments pertaining to the Army Corps of Engineers’ actions regarding the NWP-21 permits. The Corps has just pulled 79 NWP-21 permits; 49 of those permits are located in eastern Kentucky. To discontinue the NWP-21 permitting process would have a devastating effect on the industry. With the Corps’ help, we will have the ability to mine coal, protect our water, and defend our environment safely and responsibly.

I would like to shed some light on why we do mountaintop development. The cost of mining coal per ton is greater for mountaintop development or surface mining than for deep mining. Eighty percent of the coal removed through the mountaintop process cannot be deep mined or mined by any other method. The seams of coal are so close to the top of the mountain that the rock structure is not sturdy enough to hold up the top for deep mining. Therefore, proper roof support MSHA requirements are not possible. Starting on top of the mountain and going down to the seams of coal, small layers of high quality and low sulfur coal six, 12, and 18 inches thick are retrieved. There is no way these seams of coal can be mined without moving the dirt and rock prior to retrieving the seam of coal.

When the dirt and rock are drilled and shot, the swellage (expansion of material once it is drilled and exploded) is maximized to about 40 percent. Without hollow-fills, the 40 percent swellage would be impossible to mine. When roads are built in eastern Kentucky, hollow-fills are necessary to hold the swellage and waste materials. When mountaintop development is undertaken, the land is left suitable for growth and economic development, a necessity for all development.

Mountaintop development has made it possible to construct the Letcher- Knott County Airport, which will begin in a few months, and the Letcher County prison is planned in the near future. These facilities would not be possible without mountaintop development, and jobs and the related economic benefits for the people of eastern Kentucky would not exist.

Two thousand people are out of work in Knott, Magoffin, and Letcher counties due to delays in granting NWP-21 permits and completing Corps reevaluations. As I mentioned, the current withdrawal of 79 Corps permits for reevaluation has greatly affected this three-county area.

Knott County has $9 million in coal severance monies for water and sewer and economic development. Letcher County received an allocation of $7 million, and Magoffin received $3 million. Without this money, our streams and waterways cannot be cleaned up.

I come from a second generation coal-mining family that has made a living mining coal. As a U.S. Army veteran, I ETS out on November 8, 1968. In 1969 I started running a D9-G Cat Dozer on a surface mine in Breathitt County. In 1972 I started a trucking company, DBA Smith Trucking Company, to haul coal. In 1984 I started coal mining by the method of auguring coal. In 2001 I started coal auger mines in the country of Mexico. In 2003 I was elected State Representative for the 92nd Legislative District for the people of Knott, Magoffin, and Letcher counties. I have more hands-on experience and knowledge in this industry than any other elected member of the Kentucky General Assembly. As the State Representative for the people of the 92nd Legislative District, I now serve as the mouthpiece for my coal miners.

REP. ANCEL “HARDROCK” SMITH 92nd Legislative District


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