Coal, Environmentalists Massing for Corps Hearings

Six public hearings, one each in six affected states, begin today and give both sides the chance to defend their positions on mountaintop removal mining, which is a flash point in Appalachia's coalfields.

Six public hearings beginning today by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concern its pending proposal to require coal mining companies to obtain individual Clean Water Act permits for dumping material resulting from mountaintop removal mining into valleys of Appalachia. Companies have used a streamlined permitting process up to now, but the Corps proposed to change or eliminate the streamlined process in July 2009 and announced it will hold these hearings – one in each of the six affected states – Oct. 13 and Oct. 15. Environmentalists opposed to mountaintop removal mining and coal companies are reportedly massing supporters to defend their positions on the practice, which is scrutinized both in Ken Ward Jr.’s Coal Tattoo blog and in a Sept. 30 article, "The Coalfield Uprising," posted by The Nation and written by Jeff Biggers, who has a book coming out soon from Nation Books.

The hearings will start at 7 p.m. local time. The Oct. 13 locations are Charleston, W.Va., Pikeville, Ky., and Knoxville, Tenn., and the Oct. 15 locations are Pittsburgh, Pa., Cambridge, Ohio, and Big Stone Gap, Va.

Tim Huber of the Associated Press reported last week that the Sierra Club is organizing carpools to attend the hearings, while the National Mining Association is organizing mountaintop removal mining supporters to attend.

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