It looks like mountaintop removal mining has more friends than foes, despite a crackdown by regulators, lawsuits by environmentalists and protests in West Virginia and Kentucky.
Students at Wallins Elementary School in Harlan County, Ky., have a project against plans to mine Black Mountain, the tallest peak in the Bluegrass State.
Protesting youngsters want to save the mountains there, as many young and old want to do in West Virginia. In both states, activists fight to spare peaks, valleys and streams from the ill effects of mountaintop mining.
But Arch Coal and other surface mining operators say the effects are nothing like critics make out. Arch is running a series of ads in West Virginia newspapers arguing the point of protecting the environment while mining coal and providing jobs.
I'm persuaded that the job argument flies in West Virginia and Kentucky. Young protesters in Kentucky are up against their coal-mining elders, who insist that jobs and environmental protections go hand in hand.
The same attitude holds for West Virginia coal miners and supporters who say coal remains vital to the state's economy. Jobs make friends for mountaintop mining.
Count among them the United Mine Workers union and its president, Cecil Roberts, a native of Cabin Creek, who speaks with authority and concern in the coalfields and beyond.
"We make no apologies for seeking to promote the jobs available in the mining and related industries," Roberts told the task force appointed by Gov. Cecil Underwood to study the problem of mountaintop mining.
Like other supporters of this mining method, Roberts maintains that state and federal laws should be strictly followed, post-mining land use should be for industrial development, and homes should be protected from blasting in mining areas.
"We do believe the jobs provided in coal mining are worth fighting for and preserving," Roberts said. "This is particularly true in our economy in which service sector jobs are often very low-paying and without benefits."