You can’t say much about the coal mining process known as mountaintop removal without inflaming passions on each side of that debate.
That was clear in the wake of my Feb. 17 column, which cheekily extolled the controversial practices many “benefits,” such flattened landscapes that would lower road-building costs and spur bicycling and new Super Walmarts.
Some people got the sarcasm, others didn’t.
Terry Dotson of Knoxville, Tenn., understood I was kidding. And he blasted me like a peak rich with fossil fuels.
“You sir have no idea what you jest about,” he wrote. “Mountain top mining properly done, as it is today, provides lots of benefits . . . There are schools, airports, golf courses, shopping centers, soccer fields, horse arenas, football fields, baseball fields, business locations, federal prisons, subdivisions — all above flood stages in the mountains, not down where they are washed away year after year.”
Dotson added: “Being unconsciously incompetent is not good when people read your uninformed opinions!!”
But H. Rucker Keister III of Salem begged to disagree.
“Dan, this is best piece I’ve seen in [The Roanoke Times] in a long time,” he wrote. “I KNEW I was tired of walking and driving up and down those bothersome mountains. Now I can thank the coal and energy companies for fixing that for me!”
Among those weren’t quite sure about my point was Dona Wheeler, who moved to Floyd in 2009 and loves it there.
“I hope your piece was tongue in cheek, or perhaps the polluted flat land you covet has eaten just a few too many brain cells and dementia has set in . . . Mountains are said to be closer to God, and I find that very true, as I feel a much higher spiritual here than anywhere in the world I have been.”
But Kayti Wingfield of Charlottesville got it. On my blog she called the column “satire at its best. This genius is shedding light on how insane it is to blast away mountains. The benefits are crap — he is JOKING. . .Three cheers for Dan!”
And West Virginia native Mike Showalter, who used to live in Roanoke but now hails from Chicago, noted the column might spawn a new bumper sticker. I reckon that’s the true test of an opinion’s worth.
“In West Virginia, cars tend to have one of two bumper stickers,” he wrote. “ ‘Friends of Coal,’ or ‘I Heart Mountains.’ Your column today opens up a third option, ‘I Hate Mountains.’ Much appreciated.”
Mountaintop removal was far from the only issue that prompted readers’ responses. Another was March 6 column on the city’s sale of 3 acres on Reserve Avenue to Carilion Clinic for $1.53 million not long after the city paid $2.2 million for it.
J. Eldridge Luke of Roanoke called it, “one more reason for me to move my family out of Roanoke. I am tired of self serving idiots wasting my tax dollars. They consistently make idiotic decisions with horrendous results.”
And Randy Abbott of Roanoke County noted the column left out the names of those who made the decision to force the sale of Jay and Stephanie Burkholder’s 3-acre parcel.
“Hope to see a follow-up story that names names in this botch,” he wrote.
Also weighing in were the Burkholders, who had paid $169,000 for that land in 1999. They praised The Roanoke Times for its fair and factual coverage of the issue.
They also noted: “We paid an additional $170,000 to Southern States for the buildings. Southern States had a 100-year lease on the land from Norfolk Southern, so we had to purchase the land from NS and the buildings separately from Southern States.”
“Your assessment of the winners and losers is correct, but the jury is still out on Carilion. Time will tell regarding their ultimate gain in this matter.”
Thanks again, readers, for your interesting criticisms and heartfelt praise. Please keep the phone calls, e-mails and letters coming.