Op-Ed

Judd has little credibility to criticize coal mining

At issue | July 9 Herald-Leader article, "Banner mocks Judd for critical comments about coal"

The recent public comments by Ashley Judd regarding the people of Eastern Kentucky, the practice of mountaintop removal and the coal industry in general, struck a nerve with many Kentuckians, rightfully so. Coal, particularly the practice of mountaintop removal, has been and will continue to be a controversial subject of debate as America moves toward "clean energy" and "energy independence."

Judd makes several plausible statements, and she is well within her rights to do so. However, she misses the point in the fact that she does not, nor likely will she ever, actually live in Eastern Kentucky.

She refers to coal industry leaders as "cunning, callous and greedy outsiders." Her views toward the region can be viewed as much of the same.

In his 1962 book Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area, the late Whitesburg author, lawyer and professor Harry Caudill, shed light for the nation on the social and economic distress prevalent throughout the coalfields of central Appalachia.

This provocative book, written by one of our own, ruffled the feathers of many people living inside and outside of the region and caught the attention of the federal government.

Caudill, an outspoken critic of the coal industry, became somewhat of a spokesman for Appalachia. However, he also lived here. He was one of us. He understood the role coal played in the region, but realized perplexities often associated with it.

Presently, environmentalists, including Judd, lash out against our coal industry through press conferences, propaganda and rallies. This vilification of the coal industry comes with little willingness to understand the positive impact coal and mountaintop removal has for the people of Eastern Kentucky and American society.

There is no denying that the continued diversification our region's economy to one not as reliant on the "boom and bust" conditions associated with the demand for coal would reap benefits for Eastern Kentucky. However, many of the changes advocated by environmentalists are not only off-base, but simply unrealistic.

Mountaintop removal provides jobs for our people, flat land for development and energy for America. However, it is apparent one can't fully appreciate these positive impacts unless one actually lives here.

I commend Judd on her success as an actress, her recently obtained degree from Harvard University and her continual support of our University of Kentucky Wildcats.

However, this does not qualify her to be a spokeswoman for our region — a region which she obviously does not understand.

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