AP Report: Coal Operators Watched From Above

Jul 13, 2012

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Government inspectors have been keeping watch over coal operators through aerial surveillance in central Appalachia, a region that's been the center of debate over so-called mountaintop removal mining.

The Kentucky Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement has spent more than $477,000 over the past four years for helicopter flight, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The flyovers came as a surprise to mining industry leaders, including Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett, who complained about their "covert'' nature and questioned their effectiveness.

Kentucky Department of Aviation documents released to the AP under an open records request show that state police and wildlife officers also are using the state's fleet of planes and helicopters for aerial surveillance.