LYNCH — Gov. Steve Beshear visited residents of Harlan and Floyd counties Thursday, making good on a February promise to coal-mining protesters who staged a sit-in at his office.
Members of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth showed him streams and homes damaged by surface mining and asked him to take a stand against mine permits proposed for areas of Black Mountain around Lynch. The Energy and Environment Cabinet has declared frivolous a petition to declare the area "lands unsuitable for mining." That decision is being appealed.
"This town, if it dies, it can't be replaced, it can't be simulated, it can't be restored. ... If they are allowed to take these mountains, this town is gone, people's lives are gone, history is gone," Lynch City Councilman Taylor Hall said. Asked to support the lands-unsuitable petitions, Beshear said he would take residents' comments into consideration.
"We're going to make sure that, number one, careful consideration is given to any proposed permits here, and number two, we want to enforce our rules and our laws that balance a need for responsible mining and protecting our environment and protecting our water," Beshear said.
Two companies, A&G Mining of Virginia and Nally and Hamilton of Bardstown, have surface-mine permits pending with the state. Residents asked the governor to halt any surface mining near the Portal 31 exhibition mine and other tourist attractions, including the top of Black Mountain, Kentucky's highest peak.
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth member Doug Doerrfeld said he thought the meeting was "a positive first step" but he would have liked the governor to take a stronger stand for Lynch's efforts at post-mining economic development.
"I don't think he really gave clear answers," Doerrfeld said.
Beshear did accept an invitation to meet again as mine permits and petitions progress.