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Argument: Mountaintop removal often only way to develop land

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Taylor Kuykendall. "What's In a name? 'Mountaintop Removal' vs. 'Mountaintop Development'" Friends of Coal. December 27th, 2010: "[Chris] Hamilton [of the West Virginia Coal Association] said West Virginia’s natural contours are not necessarily the best for land development, and the cost of reshaping that land for development makes many potential sites cost-prohibitive.

'Southern West Virginia, in fact most of West Virginia, can be characterized like this: a valley floor between 100 feet and a half-mile wide, with a road, a river and a railroad running through it,' Hamilton explained. 'On either side of the valley are mountains with slopes approaching 60 degrees. The valley floor is mostly taken up by the road, river (or stream) and railroad, and what little land remains is usually on the 20-year floodplain. Clearly, there is little readily developable land available for economic development or community development, recreational development or housing.'

The only solution, Hamilton points out, is build something on the floodplain and endangering the structure, carving a notch in the mountainside or paying for the access, utilities and site preparation to build directly on the mountaintop.

Coal operators can become a valuable partner in developing land for use, and could take the burden to do so off the taxpayer, Hamilton said.

'Frankly, I see a very symbiotic relationship — bringing together the coal industry, which is willing to move the earth to get at the resource it needs, and the economic/community development team that needs the site prepared for downstream development,' Hamilton said. 'Would I like to see more done with these sites? Absolutely, but the coal industry is responsible to its stockholders to mine coal. We can be an incredible resource in the effort to build a new, sustainable economy for our region, but we cannot lead that effort.'"

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