Appalachian Perspective

Citizens, activists, and business representatives discuss the practice of strip mining for coal in rural Appalachia.

00:19Copy video clip URL “This program has been made possible by the support of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy and the Tennessee Committee for the Humanities.” Onscreen logos. 

00:40Copy video clip URL An explosion on a mountaintop. 

00:55Copy video clip URL Onscreen: “broadside video presents ‘Appalachian Perspective'” intercut with footage taking from a car driving through the hills. 

01:38Copy video clip URL Onscreen: “Surface Mining: An Overview.” Roger Williams, an inspector for the Bureau of Mined Land Reclamation, explains the surface or strip mining as bulldozers and trucks work behind him. 

03:01Copy video clip URL Phil Shelton, an environmentalist, explains the first law that Virginia passed in 1966 regarding strip mining. 

03:50Copy video clip URL Charlie Baker, who works for a conservation service, talks about the attempts to regulate surface mining. 

05:17Copy video clip URL B.V. Cooper of the Virginia Surface Mining and Reclamation Association discusses the history of surface mining, which had been happening for a long time but began to grow after World War II, and was first regulated in 1966. 

06:57Copy video clip URL William Grower, of the Commission of Land Mine Reclamation, discusses the legal history of regulating strip mining. A 1972 law followed the difficult-to-enforce 1966 law. 

08:40Copy video clip URL Shelton on the attempts at reclamation.

09:08Copy video clip URL B.V. Cooper describes the 1966 law’s inadequacies, which lacked the “teeth.. to enact really tough reclamation standards,” and the improvements in the 1972 law. The shift towards strip mining within the coal industry. He expresses the difficulties in getting “people to sit down and talk quietly” about strip mining. 

12:12Copy video clip URL John Burress and Charles Winfrey of Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM), an organization of citizens from the region that work advocates for the rural inhabitants of their community, including protesting strip mining. They discuss the extent of the damage caused by strip mining. 

14:41Copy video clip URL Dick Austin, who formerly lived in the middle of regions undergoing strip mining, points out the features of land that has been strip mined. “They are so totally unnecessary. There is no reason on earth for these to be permitted or to happen other than that they make a few people very rich.” He discusses the damage caused not just by the mining but by the careless and unsafe practices of strip mining, such as leaving walls of sediment that can be washed away and cause flooding or widespread damage to home, roads, and farms. 

17:20Copy video clip URL Shelton on the damage caused by loose sediment, and the ways that coal companies could address them. “The problem, of course, is that it costs money to move this material back and forth around the hill. It’s a lot cheaper to just take it over to the edge and dump it and let gravity take it away from you and then it’s no longer in your way. It’s not no longer a problem because it’s laying there as loose material it’s pretty difficult to get any vegetation growing on. And the slides and that kind of thing all come from outslope material.”

19:28Copy video clip URL Williams on what they look for during an inspection of a strip mining site. 

22:13Copy video clip URL Austin:”These things are dangerous and unsightly, and they’re not necessary.” He talks about safer strip mining practices that are enforced elsewhere. 

23:45Copy video clip URL Charles Baker, of a conservation service, shows a surface-mined field that has been properly reclaimed, on which grasses and legumes are now growing. 

25:52Copy video clip URL Austin talks about legislation, including a law that was vetoed by the U.S. President. 

26:42Copy video clip URL Cooper talks about efforts to speak to legislators in Washington about regulating strip mining. 

27:40Copy video clip URL While driving, Cooper talks about the effectiveness of those trips in preventing the federal government from inhibiting people’s “right to make a living.” 

28:00Copy video clip URL Austin discusses the problems of “high walls” – piled walls of sediment that are created by strip mining, and which cannot be re-vegetated at such steep angles. 

29:12Copy video clip URL An example of an early reclamation project in Virginia, a grass-covered field. 

30:55Copy video clip URL Danny Brown, Deputy Commissioner of the Division of Mined Land Reclamation, believes that the rules for reclamation need to be updated. 

31:37Copy video clip URL Austin discusses industry’s response to public demands. 

32:13Copy video clip URL Burress and Winfrey: “You can’t have a perfect world without paying for it. You can’t have abundant energy at a low price without paying for it some other way.”

32:24Copy video clip URL End credit: Compiled by Paul Congo. 



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