Stanley Sturgill talks of MTR mining consequences and moving to a Just Transition

Harlan County member Stanley Sturgill helped a ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources understand the hopes and efforts of people in the Appalachian region to build a brighter future through a Just Transition.

“We have proved we are hard working peoples that have provided our nation with coal for the past 100 years,” said Sturgill at a round table discussion with Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona. “That is why I truly have a vision we can now achieve our Just Transition goals for our communities and our workforce in eastern Kentucky and southwest Virginia. I truly believe we can build a new future for the generations that will follow in our footsteps.”

He pointed out the health impacts that many in the region continue to experience.

“I’m sick and tired of so many people dying from the many health problems that are a direct result from coal mining, especially mountaintop removal mining. Our people are exposed to and must breathe the dust emissions from the blasting of millions of tons of dirt and rock plus the millions of pounds of explosives our citizen continue to be exposed to,” Sturgill said. “These tragic, untimely deaths don’t have to continue.”

Grijalva is the ranking Democrat on the House committee. His visit to southwest Virginia was arranged by Earthjustice to learn about the consequences of mountaintop removal and how people in the region are creating and embracing new opportunities.

After the roundtable in Big Stone Gap, which involved statements from people from several states, Grijalva took a tour to the top of Black Mountain.

“We went up right to where the road gets to the top of the mountain coming into Kentucky and we looked at the wonderful, terrible view of mountaintop removal that the illustrious James Justice, governor of West Virginia, left us,” Sturgill reported.

(Justice made millions of dollars in the mining business, leaving many sites unreclaimed and fines unpaid. He won the governorship of West Virginia in 2016.)

“Rep. Grijalva was kind enough to come and look at it. He’s gathering information. I invited him back, and he said he’d come back.”

That could be an important relationship if Democrats win a majority on the U.S. House, with the possibility that Grijalva could become the committee chair.

Sturgill also asked Grijalva to work for passage of the RECLAIM Act, which would add an economic development focus on efforts to repair land damaged by mining

Sturgill, from Lynch which is on the Kentucky side of Black Mountain, and his neighbors have opposed additional mining in the watershed above their homes, which also provides a drinking water source for several towns.

“It was a very good meeting. The congressman was real easy to talk to. I thoroughly enjoyed it,” Sturgill added.

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