The report holds little hope of returning to the verdant Appalachian past, where underground mining at least left the lofty horizon and snug hamlets undisturbed. As the industry decapitated mountains to get at the lucrative coal seams below the surface, it reassured residents that there would be adequate restoration. The resulting tabletops of hedges and grass are derided by residents in nearby hollows. “Lipstick on a corpse,” says Ken Hechler, a tireless environmentalist and public servant in West Virginia.
- Mining companies should never have been permitted to alter the landscape so irrevocably. If you can’t afford to restore the mine site completely—with its exact contours, substrata, and rich topsoil—then you can’t afford to mine there at all.
- Within a few decades, we’ll look back on the mountaintop removal era with disgust and national shame. We’ll remember the practice in much the same way that we remember, say, forced lobotomy programs or the decimation of America’s old-growth forests.