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Environmental groups expected to protest at mine hearings

Environmental groups expected to protest at mine hearings

By: AP

HAZARD, Ky. (AP) — Environmental groups across Appalachia planned to protest public hearings held Wednesday on a Bush administration-backed proposal to relax restrictions preventing mining activity near waterways.
The groups say they oppose exempting valley fills — in which rubble from mountaintop removal mining is dumped in nearby valleys — from the 20-year-old rule restricting mining activity near streams.
The rule change would hurt water supply to citizens and farms in the Appalachian coalfields, among other environmental impacts, said Landon Medley, a resident of Van Buren County and a member of the Save Our Cumberland Mountains.
“It’s more or less trial and error with what’s being proposed,” Medley said. “No one knows the long-term or short-term effects of this.”
After protesting, the groups planned to attend the public hearings scheduled for 6 p.m. at Hazard, Charleston, W.Va.; Knoxville; and Washington, Pa.
Current policy says land within 100 feet of a stream cannot be disturbed by mining unless a company can prove it will not affect the water’s quality and quantity.
The new regulation would allow mining that would alter a stream’s flow as long as any damage to the environment is repaired later.
The U.S. Office of Surface Mining proposed the change saying the existing rule has been subject to varying interpretations by the courts.
OSM officials said the rule change would reduce the environmental impacts of surface coal mining and give coal operators “clear standards for mining near bodies of water.”
“They’re saying the rule change won’t expand mountaintop removal mining, which is not true,” said Vivian Stockman, project coordinator for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition in Huntington, W.Va. “What we’re asking is for them to pull the proposed rule and protect our water by enforcing the current rule.”
National Mining Association Luke Popovich said opposition by the environmental groups is expected.
“These groups are understandably upset with a rule that will remove the ambiguity that they have tried, and failed, to exploit,” he said.
Published in The Messenger 10.25.07

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