In a wide-ranging profile due out in next month’s issue of Details, Kentucky’s Republican nominee for Senate, Rand Paul, stands up for all the good things the controversial practice of mountain top-removal mining can do for the environment. Despite warnings from conservationists that blowing the tops off of mountains to get the precious, precious coal underneath can have a seriously negative impact on the surrounding land, Paul says that when you really stop to think about it, losing those mountain tops is actually a net positive.
From the lengthy article, which was reported before Paul shunned the national press:
Paul believes mountaintop removal just needs a little rebranding. “I think they should name it something better,” he says. “The top ends up flatter, but we’re not talking about Mount Everest. We’re talking about these little knobby hills that are everywhere out here. And I’ve seen the reclaimed lands. One of them is 800 acres, with a sports complex on it, elk roaming, covered in grass.” Most people, he continues, “would say the land is of enhanced value, because now you can build on it.”
As he said of so many things in the past, Paul said the final decision about mountaintop removal mining (which, as Details reporter Jonathan Miles reports, has been called “the greatest environmental tragedy ever to befall our nation” by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.) should rest in the hands of private landowners.
“Let’s let you decide what to do with your land,” Paul told the magazine. “Really, it’s a private-property issue.”
Coal production, of course, is one of the most important industries in Kentucky, so Paul’s not likely to lose many friends in the business community by talking up the advantages of flattening Appalachia to dig up more coal. But if the people who run the coal mines might be happy with the article, the folks who actually dig up the coal might find Paul’s understanding of the industry lacking a bit. Miles and Paul drive through Harlan County, Kentucky — the front line for some of the nastiest labor battles in the history of American coal. The county was where many miners spent decades trying to win concessions from owners and help build coal mining into a middle class job. But when Miles asks about it, Paul can’t seem to remember why the area is important to Kentucky:
Something about Harlan has lodged itself in my brain the way a shard of barbecue gets stuck in one’s teeth, and I’ve asked Paul for help. “I don’t know,” he says in an elusive accent that’s not quite southern and not quite not-southern. The town of Hazard is nearby, he notes: “It’s famous for, like, The Dukes of Hazzard.”
Read the rest of the Details piece here.