KFTC Hosts Congressional MTR Tour

Reps Chandler and Dicks with Sara (by Kentuckians for theCommonwealth)After a two week delay, the KFTC Congressional Mountaintop Removal tour finally got off the ground and into the air to view mountaintop removal operations in Central Appalachia last Friday.  Congressman Ben Chandler (D-Kentucky) and Chariman Norm Dicks (D-Washington), the chair of the  Interior and Environment Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee which oversees the Office of Surface Mining (OSM), came on the tour to gather facts about the practice of mountaintop removal and consider what budget implications the Appropriations Committee may need to consider for the OSM. Both are cosponsors of the federal Clean Water Protection Act that KFTC members and ally groups have been actively lobbying for in D.C. this year.

Two weeks ago, KFTC members were let down at the Hazard airport when the Congressmen did not arrive, because the OSM plane they were scheduled to fly in on was reported to have a dead battery.  This time, the Congressmen arrived on time and were met by KFTC Chairperson Doug Doerrfeld and several KFTC members.

We think it speaks to how serious the problem has become that Congressman Chandler and Chairman Dicks have made the trip from Washington to see for themselves how pervasive the abuse of the mining industry has become on KY's mountains, forests and streams and the people.

-Doug Doerrfeld, KFTC Chairperson

This was the first Congressional fact finding tour on the issue of mountaintop removal and KFTC members involved felt that  they were successful in  educating the Congressmen about the affects mountaintop removal is having on the land and people of Eastern Kentucky.  The tour also earned a front page article in the Lexington Herald with several quotes by KFTC members. 

The Tour

"I'm very glad that we've had a part in this and to show them the magnitude of what is happening here."
-Sara Pennington, Knott County member

On their flight to Hazard from D.C., the Congressmen were accompanied by the OSM Director Brent Wahlquist and KFTC Executive Director Burt Lauderdale. The group flew over several MTR sites in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky to view large operations and sludge impoundments as well as sites like golf courses and federal prisons that the OSM had requested to show as "reclamation."

DSC00325 (by Kentuckians for theCommonwealth)Upon arriving at the Hazard airport, the Congressmen had a brief meet-and-greet with KFTC members and then took an hour-long flyover accompanied by KFTC member Sara Pennington from Knott County and representatives from the OSM. Sara had a lively debate with OSM officials during the flight and reports that the Congressmen were moved by the scale of the devastation. Upon landing, Chairman Dicks told reporters, "I do think the question of sustainability comes up and what the consequences of the impact of this is on the environment."

The Congressmen are committed to following up and continuing their investigation on the affects mountaintop removal  with KFTC members.

Take Action

KFTC is asking that you leave messages on the Capitol Message Line (202-225-3121) for Rep. Ben Chandler and Rep. Norm Dicks thanking them for taking an interest in this issue and for signing on as co-sponsors of the Clean Water Protection Act.  We also ask that you leave a message for your own representative asking that they sign on if they haven't already. 

Read more about the tour in the upcoming issue of balancing the scales.

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