The Associated Press reports that government inspectors have been keeping watch over coal operators through aerial surveillance in Central Appalachia, a region in which mountaintop removal mining has been controversial. The Kentucky Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement has spent more than $477,000 over the past four years for helicopter flights.
The flyover activity by the government inspectors came as a surprise to mining industry leaders. Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett complained about their "covert" nature and questioned their effectiveness.
The Associated Press used an open records request to obtain documents which show that State Police and Wildlife Officers are also using the state's fleet of planes and helicopters for aerial surveillance.