The Obama administration is pushing for rules that would make it more difficult for coal companies to dump waste near steams, reversing a policy put in place by former president George W. Bush.
Coal officials say the rule reversal would change very little in their day to day work, but it could lead to more action in the courtroom. Robert Ray says surface mining practices have come a long way over the years.
"The way that the rule is written now, it's tighter than it was environmentally before. We have to now go through a number of steps to minimize our footprint, to minimize the amount of fill that we put out," says Ray, Land Manager for Pine Branch Coal in Chavies.
He says the rule reversal would be a major blow on the legal front. "If they change 95-87 back to the way it was, I think all that that does it that it probably does open us up to more lawsuits."
President of the Kentucky Coal Association Bill Caylor says, "It's going to open up the door for a lot more lawsuits filed, trying to find the achilles heel of the industry to shut it down."
Caylor says environmentalists would be at the forefront of the legal battles.
"I don't think anybody in their right mind can look at a mountain top and say that's okay," says Truman Hurt with Kentuckians For the Commonwealth.
"If they keep litigating certain issues, they will hit on an issue that will severely restrict the ability of a coal company to mine coal," says Caylor. He calls the possible reversal "frustrating" while others are showing their support for what president Obama wants to do.
"I hope that he'll go through with this, and enforce the law, and do something right for Kentucky," says Hurt.
Coal officials say local mines will see zero change. Bill Caylor says by no means is this the beginning of the end of coal mining, and we will just have to wait and see if the courts agree to reverse the ruling.