From Crooks and Liars
Rand Paul on mountaintop removal: “I don’t think anyone’s going to be missing a hill or two here and there”
By David Neiwert Saturday Jun 12, 2010
One of the main takeaways from Rand Paul’s disturbing musings on civil rights — as well as his sturdy defense of the indefensible that is British Petroleum — clearly was, as John put it, that he’s a typical out-of-touch country-club conservative Republican — not to mention that he likewise manages to carry on his dad’s tradition of right-wing extremism.
But these also are revealing moments about the limitations of libertarianism as a political philosophy — because it clearly demonstrates how libertarian “principle” all too often, and all too consistently, essentially gives unbridled permission to behavior and actions that are toxic to our communities and their well-being, and to our democratic institutions as a nation. Which means that libertarianism all too often is often merely used as a pseudo-principled front for the worst impulses in American society, all under the pretense of “freedom”.
Well, that very limitation is also readily self-evident when it comes to Paul’s position on a subject that directly affects the Kentuckians he wants to represent in the United States Senate: mountaintop-removal coal mining. This issue, perhaps more than any other, reveals Rand Paul, and all the libertarians like him, to be nothing more than the corporate tools they really are.
Here’s Rand Paul in an interview from October 5, 2009, via Jeff Biggers:
PAUL: I think people out here would find that I would be a great friend to coal. Not ’cause I come to Eastern Kentucky to pander to coal, but because I believe business should be left alone from government. I think the permit process needs to be made easier from the federal level and the state level. I think we shouldn’t have special taxes on their profit. I think we should have lower corporate taxes. Those who create jobs — I would much more rather lower taxes on the coal industry so they can hire a new hundred new workers than I would say, let’s tax the coal industry, send it to Washington, so that we can get a hundred new people digging a ditch that may or may not need to be dug. So yeah, I’m greatly in favor of that. I think coal’s a big part of our future because we have a lot of it, still, in the United States, it’s fairly readily accessible, and it’s where we get most of our electricity. Coal now competes — you may not know this, a lot of people out here know this — but about half of our electrical needs come from coal. And it’s cheaper than oil and gas, actually, for your electricity.
Q: What about mountaintop removal?
PAUL: I think whoever owns the property can do with the property as they wish, and if the coal company buys it from a private property owner and they want to do it, fine. The other thing I think is that I think coal gets a bad name, because I think a lot of the land apparently is quite desirable once it’s been flattened out. As I came over here from Harlan, you’ve got quite a few hills. I don’t think anybody’s going to be missing a hill or two here and there.
And some people like having the flat land. Some of it apparently has become quite valuable when it’s become flattened. And I think they do a good job at reclaiming the land, and you know, adding back in topsoil, bringing in help. So the bottom line is, it’s not just me pandering to coal. It’s me believing in private property.
If they bought the property, they own the property, they can do with that property, as long as they don’t pollute someone else’s property. And I don’t think they want to. If they dump something in the river that goes to the next property, your local judges here will stop them. But I don’t think they’re doing that. I think what they’re doing is what they can do with property they own, and doesn’t appear to me to be something the federal government should be getting involved with.
It’s harder to get any more afactual and ignorant than that, when it comes to the realities. Indeed, either Paul has just swallowed coal-company lies and propaganda whole, or he’s just flatly lying himself.
With 95% accuracy, analysis shows that nearly 1.2 million acres (10% of Central Appalachia) have been surface-mined for coal. It also revealed that more than 500 mountains have been severely impacted or destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining. The study was completed in 2009 by Appalachian Voices based on 2008 aerial and mining permit data.
Over 89 percent of the sites identified in the survey are not being reclaimed. Heckuva job, Paulie!
Wanna see those now-missing “hill or two here or there”? Here’s a map of all the hilltop mining operations in the Appalachians. The little green and yellow tabs mark the “reclaimed” sites, while the red ones are for unreclaimed ones:
And here’s what a typical mountaintop-removal site looks like without “reclamation” — this is the Hobet mine in West Virginia, seen from space:
Go here for a before-and-after look at the Hobet mine, just so you can get some perspective of the enormity of this purposeful manmade eco-disaster.
Now multiply that by five hundred, and you’ll have a sense of the enormity of what has befallen people living in the Appalachians.