Front Porch Blog

The Outcry

As many of you know, Kentucky State Represenative Don Pasley has introduced a bill aimed at stopping the dumping of mining waste into streams and rivers in Kentucky. This would curb many of the large mountaintop removal sites in the eastern part of the state.

The bill was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee, where Chairman Jim Gooch had the following to say about the complete and utter destruction of eastern Kentucky communities…

“If there were wholesale destruction of the mountains I think there would be more of an outcry.

I know for a fact that, even though Gooch is a no-name state representative from western Kentucky, he has heard from those in the eastern part of the state. But I don’t think ANYONE expected to see the absolute magnitude of the public outcry regarding Gooch’s comments. In this Saturday’s “Lexington Herald-Leader,” there were over a dozen letters from Kentuckians who want mountaintop removal to stop NOW. In ONE DAY! Are you hearing this Rep. Gooch? Cause there’s more where that came from?…

Check out what they had to say below…


I don’t know what it’s going to take to restore my faith in government. The House Natural Resources Committee has again refused to take up House Bill 385, which would stop the pollution of Kentucky’s streams from mountaintop removal mining.

Committee chairman Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence, says there is no wholesale destruction of the mountains and no outcry of opposition, particularly in Eastern Kentucky.

Gooch has got his story wrong. According to environmental watchdog groups, mountaintop removal has destroyed over 450 mountains and buried over 1,000 miles of streams throughout Appalachia, most in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia.

If he came to Eastern Kentucky he’d see this for himself. He’d hear the cries of people from Wilson Creek and Stephen’s Branch in Floyd County who are organizing to stop a mountaintop removal site from taking over their communities.

He’d hear these same cries from others just a few miles down the road in Sassafras in Knott County and Montgomery Creek in Perry County, who have already been affected by mountaintop removal. He’d hear them in Eiola in Letcher County and Island Creek and Grapevine in Pike County.

They are the cries of hard-working, law-abiding, tax-paying voters who have signed petitions and spoken out in public meetings and called their legislators. They have cried out, Gooch, but you’ve ignored them. Please listen.

Jason Howard

Rep. Jim Gooch needs to get informed. This is a public outcry against his stupid remarks regarding HB 385.

Linda Sizemore

Let me add my voice as one who is opposed to mountaintop removal and the pollution such practices cause. I want State Rep. Jim Gooch to know House Bill 385, a bill to help stop pollution caused by mountaintop removal, should be reconsidered as soon as possible. Voters will be watching and wondering how big a public outcry is needed to get this message heard.

Dory Hudspeth

State Rep. Jim Gooch needs to wake up and smell the muddy water.

In one sentence, he managed to deny both the wholesale destruction of the mountains in Eastern Kentucky and the public outcry that has been there since the beginning of this heinous act. Unfortunately, like so many Kentucky politicians over the past century, Gooch is willing to close his eyes to the environmental and economic devastation taking place in our great state because of the financial pull of the coal industry lobbyists.

Sludge pond spills, flash floods caused by scraped hillsides, and overloaded coal trucks have caused too much heartache over property damage and lost loved ones. The efficiency of machines has decreased the number of available jobs, forcing people to choose between poverty and migration.

Gooch needs to open his eyes and his ears to see that there are people from all over Kentucky writing and praying and speaking and singing and screaming and standing up for the nightmare of mountaintop removal to end. I challenge Gooch to actually go to Eastern Kentucky, look at the devastation and grassroots activism there, and see if he can make the same claim without ignoring his conscience.

As chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, he needs to know that the greatest natural resource in Kentucky is not a dead remnant of the Mesozoic era. It’s a living, breathing, active force: the people who love this land and will not stop fighting this war until we win.

Frankie Finley

What on Earth? State Rep. Jim Gooch says House Bill 385 won’t be considered because there isn’t enough public outcry?

The man’s obviously not spent time in Eastern Kentucky or, if he has, it’s been as a guest of pro-coal people.

We, the residents of Eastern Kentucky, whether we live in mining counties or not, are affected every day by the atrocities of mountaintop removal coal mining. It worsens our air and water quality, our economy, and especially, our self-esteem as we watch our hills and forests leveled and the profits shipped out of state.

Earth to Gooch: Is anyone home?

Julie Sloan

Gooch not listening

It’s time to impeach the president — the president of the Kentucky Coal Association. In a recent article he stated, “there are no more heavy metals in mountaintop removal mining than you would find in your backyard.”

He can’t really believe that.

State Rep. Jim Gooch, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, contends that mountaintop removal mining is not a destructive force. This is the same Gooch from Providence, elevation 440 feet. Does he even know what a mountain is?

Stop mountaintop removal now, for those of us who truly know and appreciate what mountains are.

Katherine Berry
Berea, elevation 1,034 feet

Perhaps Rep. Jim Gooch doesn’t know there’s been and continues to be an enormous public outcry against mountaintop removal coal mining because the only person he listens to is Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky Coal Association.

He has been significantly unavailable to the hundreds of people who’ve gathered in the Capitol over the past year to speak to their legislators about this important issue.

I don’t think there have been many experiences which have so united Kentuckians as their dismay over what this rapacious practice is doing to their mountains and streams. And for what? For about eight percent of total coal production.

To tear down a mountain and to ruin people’s lives, for that piddling amount of coal, an energy demand that could easily be met by sensible conservation practices, or just the slightest investment in alternative energy is nuts.

Mary Ann Taylor-Hall

I would personally like to extend an invitation to State Rep. Jim Gooch, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, to attend the annual gathering at the Capitol in support of legislative bills to reform mountaintop removal.

Apparently, Gooch has missed the loud harmonizing outcries that take place yearly in the rotunda. This is not a new outcry, but one that is growing and getting louder and louder.

Perhaps Gooch has some sludge in his ears when it comes to hearing the public’s voices.

Teresa Gambrel

It’s not often that I make an audible gasp of disbelief, but I did while reading an article in which State Rep. Jim Gooch, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said that House Bill 385, a bill to help stop pollution caused by mountaintop removal, will not be considered because there is not more of a public outcry.

I don’t know where Gooch has been, but I’ve witnessed plenty of public outcry myself, and he can count this as one instance of that, from a born-and-bred Eastern Kentuckian.

I can assure Gooch that I am outraged about the daily violence being committed to my people and my mountains and I refuse to be brainwashed by the coal industry’s lie that mountaintop removal is a good thing.

If he’d ever attend a community meeting in Eastern Kentucky and listen to the people who are crying out for help, I hope he’d change his mind.

I suppose all the people visiting the Capitol to lobby against mountaintop removal are easily ignored because we’re just regular, everyday working people fighting for something we believe in.

I guess this just means that we need to make more of a public outcry so Gooch and all the other legislators up there in Frankfort who are ignoring us can hear us properly.

If they’re ready to listen, we’re ready to make our frustration known even louder. Let’s start today.

Silas House


According to Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, “we (the coal industry) are not the dominant source of pollution in the Kentucky River.”

Yet, according to the the 2002 List of Impaired Waters issued by the Kentucky Division of Water, siltation and turbidity (cloudiness from suspended materials) from resource extraction (i.e. coal mining) is the major pollutant source for the majority of the listed Eastern Kentucky River tributaries.

Central Kentucky residents may be surprised to discover that the Kentucky River’s muddy appearance is not its natural state. Before World War II, the river was usually clear for most of the year, according to Wilford Bladen, retired University of Kentucky professor and author of The Geography of Kentucky.

Who is paying the costs to clean up the coal industry’s water pollution? Everyone who uses water in Central Kentucky. Ask your representative to support Rep. Don Pasley’s Stream Saver Bill which will prevent coal companies from dumping their dirty mining waste into our drinking water.

Dave Cooper

It would be nice if, when the coal industry’s Bill Caylor made his claim about sewage being the biggest pollutant in Eastern Kentucky rivers, your reporter would look up some easily available information to prove his lie.

At a meeting of the Environmental Quality Commission, the Division of Water reported that 87.5 percent of the streams in the Big Sandy River basin are impaired by human activity. Resource extraction, mostly coal mining, but also logging and oil and gas drilling, accounts for three times as much pollution as any other source.

I don’t need any studies to tell me this. I watch the Big Sandy flow through my community full of the coal industry’s waste and black water. The truth is that the coal industry treats our rivers as sewers. Caylor has told this lie for years and reporters never seem to question him on it.

And his claim that the coal industry is creating valuable flat land by leveling our mountains is just as absurd. The General Assembly could do something about this, but unfortunately Speaker of the House Jody Richards is intimidated by the coal industry.

Why does he continue to appoint Rep. Jim Gooch, one of the staunchest anti-environment legislators we have, as chair of the Natural Resources and Environment Committee?

Patty Wallace


Mountaintop removal/valley fill coal mining is an issue that is important to the future of Kentucky. This practice takes away jobs, resources and wildlife now and for generations in the future. Because coal deposits are located upstream in most of Kentucky’s major watersheds, this issue directly affects almost all Kentuckians.

For the leadership of our state legislature to not allow full consideration of this issue is harmful first to our democracy and also to our land and people. Let’s all join together and urge our legislature to promptly and fully consider this pressing issue.

George Brosi

I once visited the site of an old strip mine near the Green River in Muhlenberg County. It had been 20 years since the mine was in operation, and the site had been “restored.”

It may well have been the ugliest place I’ve ever seen in all of Kentucky, and it was devoid of life.

There were several shallow pools left from the mining operation and, after 20 years, there wasn’t a tadpole, a water-strider or even a patch of algae in any of the pools. Strip mining takes life away from the Earth, and the argument that it is good for Kentucky is about as stupid as arguing that the H-Bomb was good for Hiroshima.

Jill Davenport

I received a letter explaining that HB 385, which focuses on controlling pollution due to mountaintop removal, may not be considered in the 2007 General Assembly because of a supposed lack of public outcry from the people who are living closest to the problem.

According to the other team (i.e. coal company big guys, certain Republican pushers), there has not been enough public outcry on behalf of or from the people of Eastern Kentucky about the need to regulate this mining process.

Well, that is just incredible. I have witnessed and been a part of several sold-out venues where all the proceeds went to Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the fight against mountaintop removal. Ripping the tops off of mountains and then planting a sink- hole golf course or building a prison that has walls cracking open is not important or good. Polluting our drinking water should not be a priority.

But who is brave enough to argue with the almighty dollar? Rep. Don Pasley’s bill has 12 Democratic co-sponsors. The lone Republican co-sponsor is Melvin B. Henley from Murray. It looks like these people want to help solve this problem.

Karly Dawn Higgins





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