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Kentuckians Take Mountaintop Mining Debate to Capitol Hill

March 18, 2009

Harlan, KY - The fight against mountaintop removal coal mining goes to Capitol Hill this week, as dozens of citizens from Appalachia voice their support of the Clean Water Protection Act by traveling to Washington, D.C.

Among them is Carl Shoupe, a former coal miner, and now the Harlan County representative of the group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. They're hopeful the measure will pass. It would prohibit the dumping of coal mining waste into nearby streams, which Shoupe says is polluting water sources and destroying Kentucky's Appalachian Mountains.

"This would help to keep the waste products from the strip mining operations out of the streams and clean our waterways back up, in Kentucky."

Shoupe and others believe the practice benefits a small number of corporations at the expense of communities and the environment. Supporters of the mountaintop removal method contend it creates jobs and increases the amount of flat land available for eventual development, in areas where it is scarce.

The mining process, which has long been controversial, has already claimed more than a million acres in Appalachia. In Shoupe's view, coal is a finite resource that does not warrant the environmental consequences of mountaintop removal.

"Coal is going to be gone - and so, leave us something. Don't take our mountains and the coal. Just take the coal from underneath and leave our mountains - that's what we're trying to stress."

Shoupe adds the U.S. needs to work harder to develop a future beyond coal, by investing in sustainable economic alternatives, for Appalachia and elsewhere.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY