Ronnie Ellis on Coal’s Complications; Where Your Candidates Stand on Mountaintop Removal

(above photo of Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo from

The always-excellent blog The Ville Voice hipped us to this excellent piece by Ronnie Ellis in the Glasgow Daily Times on his recent trip to southeastern Kentucky with Lieutenant Governor (and coal supporter) Daniel Mongiardo to observe mountaintop removal operations and reclamation. Here’s a fantastic excerpt:

At one reclaimed site Mongiardo said: “If you didn’t know better, you’d think you were in central Kentucky.” No. More importantly, I asked, if one wants to live in central Kentucky, why wouldn’t one move there instead of trying to turn a awesomely beautiful place into something other than what God created and which shapes the magnificent spirit and character of the equally wonderful people who live there?

At the end of the day, I thanked Mongiardo. I told him I recognized his genuine passion for eastern Kentucky and his understandable desire to pump economic life into the region. But, I concluded, neither the elk, the trails nor the faulty rationale could eradicate the scarred images from my mind nor the sense that we are in the process of destroying something which is sacred to the people of southeastern Kentucky in order to preserve it. You simply can’t preserve something by destroying it, I told him. For what does it profit eastern Kentucky if it sells its soul?

That’s why I was so surprised to learn Mongiardo told a meeting of the Kentucky Coal Association in Lexington a week later that he’d taken a reporter to show him the reality of mining and, “I think he’s got a different attitude now because he saw it first-hand.” He didn’t name me, but there were people in the room who knew Mongiardo spoke of me.

It’s not surprising that Mongiardo, who is from Hazard, would be so pro-coal, but we have to wonder to what extent has Appalachia ever benefited from exploiting the coal under its mountains? Certainly the residents of the region aren’t getting any richer, and if the so-called benefits of mountaintop removal include turning beautiful eastern Kentucky mountains into hills similar to beautiful-but-not-quite-as-beautiful central Kentucky’s, then we really don’t see the point.

However, it’s easy to second guess our dependence on coal from the big city, despite being the beneficiaries of coal-powered electricty. As LEO‘s Fat Lip blog reminds us, here in Louisville the choices we make for our political representation have an impact on eastern Kentucky. FL linked to the Watchdog Earth blog of the Courier-Journal‘s Jim Bruggers, who published two excellent posts comparing the proposed coal policies of US Representative John Yarmuth (D-Louisville) and challnger Anne Northup (R) and Senator Mitch McConnell (R) and challenger Bruce Lunsford (D).


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