Kentucky’s capital steps were the scene this afternoon for an annual rally of Appalachian activists. The ‘I Love Mountains Day’ event brought hundreds to Frankfort. Besides residents, the annual ‘I Love the Mountains’ rally also attracts supporters from outside the region. Sydney Bernstein came to Frankfort from Kansas City. “And I think it’s important to preserve what was originally here, when this is just for money. It’s just for money and not to for anything else. Money and energy and there are obviously alternative ways to get energy,” said Bernstein.
Accompanying a chanting crowd of marchers with his guitar was Matthew Parsons of West Virginia. Along with other activists, Parsons talks about transitioning Appalchia’s economy away from coal.
“What we need to see is new businesses moving into these areas and to see the coal move out because they’re killing the area, killing the economy. They’re creating a mono-economy. They’ve got a monopoly on the work for us,” said Parsons.
Representatives of the coal industry also came to the state capital. With its high-paying jobs, Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett says coal remains an essential part of Appalachia’s economy, and should be protected.
“When people suggest that tourism jobs or Walmart or things like that are gonna replace coal mining jobs which pay much better and have much better benefits. There’s a real concern that you’re again gonna really destabilize the livelihoods and essentially force people out of eastern Kentucky,” added Bissett.
One of the slogans chanted by activists was ‘M-T-R has got to go.’ It’s a reference to mountaintop removal mining. Bissett says surface mines cover half the coal shipped out of eastern Kentucky. He argues banning half of coal production would negatively impact region’s economy.