Flipped Switch Grounds Congressional Air Tour of Coal Strip Mining
A grounded airplane keeps legislators from overview of mountain-top removal coal mining's scar on Appalachia.
Plans to mine Coal River Mountain in West Virginia will cut the region's wind-power capacity
Image: Matthew Wasson
Congressmen Ben Chandler (D-KY) and Norm Dicks (D-WA) were scheduled to tour the coalfields of Central Appalachia by air Saturday, to view the effects of mountain top removal coal mining. The two congressmen were to take a plane from outside Washington, D.C., to Hazard, Kentucky, where they would meet Saturday with local residents.
The trip never got in the air. Somebody left a switch on in the plane overnight, running down the aircraft’s battery. The plane wouldn’t crank up Saturday morning and Chandler and Dicks were left grounded in Washington.
Some at the rally were not surprised, and suspected that the federal Office of Surface Mining intentionally bolluxed the trip. Members of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, who helped organize a rally in Hazard that was to meet Chandler and Dicks, felt the trip could have been sabotaged. KFTC has long battled the Office of Surface Mining, the federal agency that organized the trip for the two congressmen and is charged with regulating coal mining.
"They must think we're stupid," said John Roark, a resident of Vicco, Kentucky.
Chandler's Legislative Director, Jim Creevy, said that Rep. Chandler pledged to reschedule the trip, but offered no date for when this would happen.
Wind power potential of Coal River Mountain, WV
Image: Matthew Wasson
The day wasn't a total loss, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, who played a big role in organizing the rally, provided a free lunch to all those in attendance, and Dr. Matthew Wasson, an ecologist out of Boone, North Carolina, was on-hand to present research his organization, Appalachian Voices, had conducted on mountain top removal.
Dr. Wasson talked about the pollution caused by mountaintop removal. And he said the wholesale alteration of the landscape diminished the chance the region could develop wind-generated energy. (Wasson said the wind-gathering capacity of the mountains was diminished by the mining technique.)
Meanwhile, Rick Handshoe of Hueysville, Kentucky, told Chandler’s representative in Hazard that if it was too difficult to get to Hazard, the group was willing to make other arrangements. “If he would rather us meet in D.C., I would be happy to do that,” Handshoe said.