Mountaintop removal is just one of many topics being talked about at the East Kentucky Leadership Conference Friday.
It's the rugged mountains, the geography of Eastern Kentucky, that many people say draws them to live in this region. Imagine the irony then that it's those same rugged mountains, those valleys, which limits the region's economic development.
"We have to move with the needs of the people and we have to change to improve," said Hazard Mayor Bill Gorman.
For some, that change means using mountaintop removal as a way to not only produce coal, but utilize the finished and reclaimed land to develop the region with airports, businesses, and jobs.
"It generates 52 percent of the nation's energy and 91 percent of the state's energy, so it is the workhorse that drives our economy," said Brian Patton with James River Coal Service Company.
"The idea is not to sweep the mountains away. Level the mountain off, to where it's a usable product," Gorman said.
But for those opposed to mountaintop removal...
"We've seen mudslides, we've lost our drinking water," said Brenda Urias.
The harm to the environment they call home is far more hazardous than the economic benefits.
"They're destroying the whole ecology. Nothing will grow on that mountaintop," said Truman Hurt.
So in a culture known for its mountains, could both sides find a level playing field?? Should the environment take precedence over the economy or are some making mountains out of molehills??