Mountaintop Mining Becomes Issue in Kentucky Governor’s Race

May 10, 2007

Removing Kentucky mountaintops in search of coal is a noisy, jarring process.

Warning sirens blare, followed by massive explosions that shake the earth and propel broken rocks skyward. Bulldozers rumble across parched ground, pushing dirt and rock out as they go. Giant dump trucks ferry loads of car-size boulders across the desert-like terrain.

But, until Harvard-educated lawyer Jonathan Miller entered the governor’s race, politicians seeking Kentucky’s top job didn’t seem to notice.

“Whether or not this issue wins me votes or loses me votes, it’s the right thing,” said Miller, a 39-year-old Democrat. “I want us to bring people together to figure out how we can stop this practice of blowing off the tops of mountains, basically destroying the countryside, and still find economically viable ways to mine coal.”

Miller’s candidacy has forced other candidates to talk about so-called mountaintop removal coal mining leading up to the May 22 primary election.

Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who is seeking a second term, said mountaintop removal has actually been good for eastern Kentucky because it has created flat land for building homes, factories and airports.

One of his GOP challengers, Paducah businessman Billy Harper, said he supports removing mountaintops to extract coal because it’s much safer than sending miners underground.

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