In her recent speech to the National Press Club in Washington, Ashley Judd openly criticized mountaintop removal, calling it “environmental genocide,” and describing it as “the state-sanctioned, federal government supported, coal industry operate, rape of Appalachia.”
She said, “Our mountains are our heritage and our legacy to future generations. But big coal companies are using explosives to literally blow the tops off the mountains, extract the coal, and destroy Appalachia.”
The hour-long speech has ruffled some eastern Kentucky feathers, however.
Senator Robert Stivers said, “She is a wonderful actor and a very pretty lady, but her knowledge of mountaintop removal, the benefits from mountaintop removal and what it has brought to eastern Kentucky, is limited and a little flawed.”
Stivers said he would like to clarify some of the misconceptions. Due to the extensive regulations, the water runoff is not as devastating as rumored. He said the water in eastern Kentucky is probably cleaner than in central Kentucky because of the harsh regulation.
He said he also wanted to emphasize the land made useable by mountaintop removal. The flat land, previously hillside, has been reclaimed as land for schools, hospitals, businesses and sports and recreational complexes. He pointed out the very successful Elk Restoration, as well as all the four-wheeling and horseback riding made possible by the mountaintop removal.
“There’s so many things that have occurred that could not have occurred, just for the fact they now have flat land to be located on,” Stivers said.
Senator Johnny Ray Turner told WKYT, “I think the statements she made are off base and I’m not trying to bash her, but I think mountaintop removal has been good for eastern Kentucky and the economy in eastern Kentucky.”
According to WKYT, Turner and Prestonsburg Tourism officials are inviting Judd to play a round of golf at Stonecrest and tour the area and discuss her concerns.