Kroger "Green" Fundraising Miffs Coal Industry

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A Kroger Co. fundraising program for charities has gotten the nation's largest traditional grocery chain crossways of the coal industry.

Representatives of the West Virginia Coal Association and the Friends of Coal say they're stunned that Kroger is allowing the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition to participate in a gift-card program. OVEC's web site offers members the opportunity to buy Kroger gift cards that return 5 percent of purchases to the group.

"It's not that we don't admire OVEC's stance of supporting the environment," Friends of Coal spokesman Jeremy Starks said. "But we also have to mine coal."

OVEC convinced a federal judge last year that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated federal law by issuing valley fill permits for mountaintop removal mines without conducting extensive environmental reviews. The decision, which is being appealed, has made it difficult for operators to obtain permits for large surface mines in West Virginia. It also has prompted a similar lawsuit in Kentucky.

"I'm quite certain that Kroger couldn't be in business (in West
Virginia) if not for the coal industry," Starks said.

Kroger operates 46 stores in the Mountain State and more than
100 more in Kentucky, Wyoming and other coal states.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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