Representative Jim Gooch, who had suppressed a piece of legislation during previous legislative sessions, called it “shenanigans.”
Kentucky legislators used “camel-flage”, inserting a bill to fight mountaintop removal mining in one to promote camel ownership
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth called it “camel-flage” when that bill, designed to counter dangerous practices in mountaintop removal mining was hidden inside another– a measure to grant a tax credit for owning camels.
The measure, known commonly as the Stream Saver bill, is, in the words of committee chair Harry Moberly “a long shot. A big long shot to pass all the way though.” That was not to stop it from having a public hearing, however, previously denied while assigned to a different committee (Chaired by Representative Gooch, who is bound to the coal industry). Said Moberly, “As long as it’s not going to be had in that committee, and I’m chair of this committee, it’ll be heard in this committee.” Moberly also claimed he did not consult with Gooch because he did not engage in “useless activities.”
In the hearings, held Tuesday and Wednesday, testimony was heard about the environmental, social and economic impact of mountaintop removal, or surface, mining. The concentration of selenium, a toxin in high enough levels, was an issue of concern, Representative John Arnold took a moment to point out that, in high enough levels, “so is whiskey”; he was joined in dissent by President of the Kentucky Coal Association Bill Caylor, who emphasized the economic impact–4.3 billion dollars annually– of mining, and several coal company executives, among them Brian Patton of James River Coal who claimed that if forced to stop surface mining, his employees “would have to go on welfare”, and that mining in the state would end forever.
Contesting this view was citizens lobbying effort KFTC. Traveling with about 50 members, many of whom were residents of the contested areas and veterans of the coal mines. Spokeswoman Teri Blanton presented a video clip wherein on one mine site, the Great Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, and most of the Manhattan skyline could be placed with room to spare. Despite all this, she stated that Stream Saver was not an anti-coal mining bill, but rather a measure aimed at protecting crucial headwaters for three major rivers.
In a separate interview she had proclaimed the need more succinctly: ‘What happens uphill flows downhill.” Despite all of this, she wasn’t hopeful about the odds of a victorious floor vote after the committee session; however, “This issue stayed alive from last session to this one…we got 1200 people to Frankfort to demonstrate on ‘I love mountains day’, and if you can get 1200 people to the capitol in the snow and the ice, we’ll keep at it.”
By new Environmental Graffiti contributor Ben Ray. Ben is a freelance writer, check him out at What’s Required