Letter: Move into new environmental landscape

I am sorry that Carbondale Mayor Stacey Bernot took such personal insult to my letter when it was by no means intended to be that way (“Carbondale has proud coal-mining heritage,” May 25, The Aspen Times). I’d like to clarify.

First, I congratulated Bernot and Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon for signing on to the mountain pact letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell regarding ending coal subsidies. I meant it. It was the right thing to do. Nothing

“backhanded” about that statement.

Second, Bernot clearly stated that her board is not opposed to coal mining. “Our board felt it was consistent with our other stances on energy extraction in that we are not opposed, just want to see those industries pay their fair share,” Bernot wrote.

My letter was about coal — not coal miners or any other person working in the coal industry. In my mind, opposition to mining is no different than opposition to tobacco once we learned it gave us cancer. It doesn’t mean I disrespect the farmers who grow the tobacco, and I certainly don’t disrespect the people who mined coal for generations. It does mean it’s time for us to step up and find new ways for coal communities to thrive.

It may surprise you, mayor, to learn that we have a lot more in common than you think. My family is from Duquesne, Pennsylvania, one of the busiest coal and steel towns of the past century. It’s dead now. It doesn’t even have a high school. That’s what happens to coal towns and its hardworking inhabitants when times change and jobs leave town.

With a little forward thinking — which, yes, I profess to promote — we, the neighbors of mountain coal communities, should support legislation and other tactics that will bring in other industries to this area. I support State Senator Kerry Donovan’s bill (SP15-036) and the Rural Economic Emergency Grant Program. I’m wide open to ideas for new industry incentives that anyone else might have. I also support you, Mayor Bernot, in your efforts to move ours and our neighboring communities away from coal and into a new environmental and economic landscape.

Jill Soffer