Front Porch Blog

The 5 Worst Political Lies in Support of Mountaintop Removal

Part 4 in a 5 part series

Lie 4: Reclamation. More than a million acres of flattened mountains does not mean economic development after all.

Lie 4: Reclamation. More than a million acres of flattened mountains does not mean economic development after all.

Lie 4: More mountaintop removal coal mining will provide much needed flat, reclaimed land for economic development.

Central Appalachia has been mired in a mono-economy for the greater part of a century. In many counties, coal mining has been the only source of good paying jobs. Mining jobs sustained a livelihood for thousands of families over the years. But when the mining companies leave town, they leave very little behind.

Appalachia needs economic diversification. That, we are meant to believe, is where mountaintop removal comes in.

The mining method has irreversibly turned more than one million acres of Appalachian mountains into flat land, and flat land is more useful for building things like factories or Walmarts. In yesterday’s L.A. Times, West Virginia State Senator Art Kirkendoll called for more mountaintop removal, saying “Once you leave it flat, you have a place where you can diversify the economy with office parks and wind turbines.”

Presumably, Kirkendoll threw in the wind turbines comment to appeal to the environmentally conscious among us, hoping that we’d completely forget that West Virginia’s wind turbines, of which there are hundreds across the state, usually line the top of ridgelines.

One reason that claiming more flat land will lead to economic development is a such an egregious lie is that the vast majority of this reclaimed land sees no economic development whatsoever. In 2010, Appalachian Voices worked with the Natural Resources Defense Council on a survey of reclaimed mine sites and discovered that, of the 410 mine surveyed, 366 (89.3%) had no form of verifiable post-mining development, excluding forestry and pasture.

The coal industry will proudly show off the four industrial parks, three golf courses, and one federal prison that currently exist on reclaimed sites as a sign of economic development and diversification. But they would like us to ignore the nearly one million acres of poorly reclaimed mine sites that sit completely unused.

If the region’s economy was truly suffering because of a gigantic economic barrier, otherwise known as the Appalachian Mountains, it would appear the coal industry has done more than their fair share of work in eliminating those barriers. Surely, new businesses will find something to their liking among the one million acres of flattened land they have to choose from, right?

After all, who wouldn’t want to build their new facility here? Or go on a vacation at a mountain resort here?

The coal industry has been leveling the Appalachian Mountains for decades, polluting the air and water, and hiring as few miners as possible to do the job. That is not the path to economic development or diversification. Politicians who say otherwise and parrot industry talking points have little evidence to back up their claims.






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