The following guest editorial by Hal Quinn is scheduled to appear in the Oct. 27th edition of USA TODAY in response to the paper's editorial on mountaintop mining. - L. Popovich

Seeing the Full Picture of Mountaintop Mining

Hal Quinn, president and CEO, National Mining Association

There are several ways to see mountaintop mining in Appalachia, but critics see only one - it's the picture of big shovels extracting coal in rugged terrain. What they don't see are the 80,000-plus jobs in a half dozen states throughout Appalachia that are tied to surface coal mining.

Thousands of these miners, their families and friends rallied last week in Kentucky, West Virginia and other coal communities to save their jobs from federal regulators in Washington who have imposed a creeping moratorium on the region's coal mining. These are high-wage jobs capable of supporting families, paying up to twice the average wage in Appalachia, a region that like most of rural America has struggled to create high-wage employment.

Neither do critics see the impact of lost mining revenue on hundreds of coal country communities. A quarter of West Virginia's 55 counties derive more than 40 percent of their annual budget from surface mining; last year alone, one coal company paid more than $45 million in state taxes. Teachers, health care professionals, law enforcement officers and other public servants face job losses if coal revenue disappears. And because surface mines account for 45 percent of the region's coal production, some of the nation's most affordable electricity will be lost for hundreds of thousands of households.

Critics dwell on perceived environmental impacts, but even this partial picture is badly out of focus. Ignored is the stringent environmental analysis performed under dozens of federal and state laws before surface mines are approved and the frequent water quality monitoring afterwards. Ignored too is the post-mining restoration of these sites to provide for hospitals, schools, homes, recreation and other highly valued uses.

For the full picture, look at our entire nation that relies on coal to generate about half of its electricity. Coal is truly America's power. We have more coal than any country, in part thanks to Appalachia.

Surface mining can be balanced with essential environmental protections, but only if we are willing to see the full picture.