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This must have been an interesting meeting…. University of Kentucky historian Ron Eller (above) called for the end of coal strip mining in the Appalachian mountains in his keynote address at the East Kentucky Leadership Conference. This would be roughly equivalent to calling for the end of baseball at a family dinner at the Steinbrenners. 

Dori Hjalmarson and Bill Estep report on the meeting for the Lexington newspaper. (Be sure to read the comments at the end of the story to get a flavor for the debate over strip mining in coal country.) Eller said the state had to recognize that coal was a declining resource. Coal reserves are playing out, he said, and there is increasing opposition to coal-fired energy and the pollution it brings. “We must begin, I think, by abolishing surface mining,” Eller said. Eller, the author of a new book on economic development, said jobs lost by ending surface mining could be made up in expanded underground mining, tourism and “green energy” production.

“I think it would be devastating to the whole region” to quickly end surface mining, Letcher County Judge-Executive Jim Ward said after Eller’s speech. Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he lived on a reclaimed surface mine (turned into a housing development and golf course). Ending surface mining would be impossible, Stumbo said, because the nation depends on coal to produce its electricity.

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