Reflections on MTR hearing from an eastern Kentuckian

Austin Lowe, a student at Thomas More College who is from Leslie County, is interning with KFTC this summer. In June he attended a hearing on mountaintop removal with KFTC members and allies. The following is his personal reflection on the day.

By Austin Lowe, KFTC Intern

On Saturday June 10, members of Kentuckians For the Commonwealth and other organizations met at the Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. This was a public forum with Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona), the ranking Democratic member of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources. Rep. Grijalva was very interested in hearing about mountaintop removal and what the people from the Appalachian region had to say about the consequences of it.

I am from southeastern Kentucky, and a lot of mountaintop removal does happen in my county and around the area that I live and visit a lot. The reason I attended this forum was because this is a very important issue to me and I have seen a lot of the consequences that this process has.

Before this forum I never knew about any of these organizations besides KFTC, and it was just remarkable that so many people were invested in this very serious issue that is mountaintop removal.

Mountaintop removal is a form of surface mining at the summit or summit ridge of a mountain. Coal seams are extracted from a mountain by removing the land, or overburden, above the seams. So instead of digging under and through the mountain, this is just blowing up the entire side of the mountain and creating a more dangerous environment for anything living around it.

In this forum Rep. Grijalva wanted to hear what the Appalachian people were going through, what their opinion was on the topic, and what were the plans for the region in the future. Whenever I first heard about this forum I was very shocked that it was someone from Arizona rather than someone from the region to have this hearing. I give a lot of respect to Rep. Grijalva for giving us the time to listen to us and hear what is going on in the region. It also very disappointing that I have not seen anything like that from any of the representatives in the Appalachian region. But I’ll get to that another day.

This was such a wonderful experience, and I am so happy that I got to be a part of this forum. We met so many wonderful people like Rep. Grijalva, KFTC member and retired coal miner Stanley Sturgill, and a lot more. Being from this region, it really is a remarkable feeling that a lot of people believe in the same future that you do.

This region has the most genuine, kind, hard working people that I have met. These people will drive hours to work every day, see their family, and still do everything around the house. I have lived all over this state and have never seen such a wide range of hard working people that really care about the place that they live in.

You can see people on the news start to break down whenever they talk about leaving their hometown for a job. And you saw a lot of that in this forum. There were a lot of passionate people from the Appalachian area that stood up and believed in their homes. We ran over our time because everyone had something to say about why they should believe in this region.

It really is remarkable how passionate people are from the Appalachian region. I never realized until I moved to Northern Kentucky that these people really care about their hometown – people never really want to leave, but they must. There are not a lot of jobs in this area, and there aren’t a lot of school or college options besides the community colleges. All we want is someone else to believe in us the way that we believe in ourselves. I really love where I’m from even if I’m not there. This area will always be my home. Even if I move and start a family somewhere else, this will always be my home.