Mountain Top Removal

I grew up in the majestic mountains of Western North Carolina and I raised my children to love and respect our environmental heritage. Mountains have always held a special meaning for my family and for the people of the fifth district.

Our mountains have given us pure water, fertile soil, and clean air that has sustained our families and shaped our way of life for generations. My parents and grandparents looked to those mountains and to the Lord above find strength to build a brighter future for their children. As descendants of that proud heritage, we are charged with the sacred responsibility of ensuring the preservation of our beloved mountains so that our children and grandchildren will experience the beauty of the land we love.

In Western North Carolina we know the environmental challenges associated with issues such as ridge top development and the proliferation of second homes on steep slopes. We also know that environmental stewardship and economic development, rather than being opposed to each other, advance together. It is this deep love for our mountains and the challenges that face us to preserve them, that make us kindred spirits with our neighbors to the north who are losing their mountains wholesale to mountain top removal.

In the coalfields of central Appalachia, the ridge tops themselves are being forever leveled by a coal mining practice known as mountain top removal.

In the past two decades more than 470 mountains have been decapitated, more than 1,000 miles of headwater streams have been filled, and more than a million acres of hardwood forests have been stripped from an area the size of Delaware, all for the purpose of extracting cheap fuel for coal fired power plants in the Midwest and South, power plants whose pollutants cause premature deaths, hospitalizations for respiratory and cardiovascular complications, asthma attacks, and the further deterioration of the forests in our own Blue Ridge mountains.

In the name of economic development and job creation, large coal corporations in Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee are sapping the economic future of coalfield mountain communities. They are destroying the mountains themselves, degrading water quality in the area, increasing the risk of downstream flooding, and permanently altering aquatic and forest habitat.

Mountain top removal is not only an important environmental issue; it is also a family issue. Communities and working families are being ripped apart by this obscene practice. One of the lessons that I learned growing up in a mountain community was that when neighbors are in need, we have a moral obligation to extend a hand of friendship and offer help. I boldly stand with our mountain neighbors for a national energy policy that values people more than profit, respects the land, sustains alternative local jobs, and offers hope for the future.

As the United States strives for energy independence we must not mortgage the future of mountain communities for the short term gains of extracting coal in a manner that benefits a handful of large corporations while permanently altering the lives of our neighbors and the environmental heritage we cherish. We can not build a sustainable energy future for the United States by substituting one form of carbon dependence for another, exchanging big oil for big coal. The idea of “clean coal” is an oxymoron and a slap in the face to the long suffering people and the environment of central Appalachia.

For those of us who love mountains and who recognize the relationship between our own economic future and the protection of our sensitive mountain environment, the destruction of the central Appalachian Mountains by mountain top mining is both tragic and shortsighted.

In Congress, I will be vocal in my opposition to mountain top removal and I will be a passionate advocate for practical investments in environmentally and economically sustainable solutions such as solar energy, hydrogen fuel, and home energy efficiency.
We must put a swift end to mountain top removal and stand by our Appalachian brothers and sisters by uniting against those energy companies in our own area that use coal from this immoral practice.

Please visit
to learn more about the steps we must take to end this abominable practice.
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for all the praise you give us Roy, I've gotta say, reading this, you make it so easy. Well done!
J. Levi Knapp

A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices.
William James (1842 - 1910)