An often pointed but unfailingly polite demonstrated a wide gulf between environmental and coal industry positions on Appalachia’s environmental woes.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, challenged coal baron Don Blankenship to be honest about the coal industry’s environmental record, especially mountaintop removal mining.

"This is the worst environmental crime that has ever happened in our history," Kennedy said, advocating an end to MTR and a gradual shift to renewable energy sources. "We all have a moral obligation to stop this from happening."

Blankenship, chairman of Massey Energy Company, said the issue was one of industry competitiveness in the face of "environmental extremism."