WASHINGTON (AP) - Hundreds of coal miners rallied on Capitol
Hill Wednesday against the Obama administration's attempts to rein
in mountaintop removal mining, accusing the Environmental
Protection Agency of trying to wipe out the coal industry.
"This administration is trying to shut down coal and fire all
of you," claimed Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., adding that the EPA was
practicing "strangulation by regulation."
The industry-backed group Faces of Coal said it paid for most of
the travel and lodging expenses for the coal miners, who came from
West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Speakers
included politicians from both parties and country music singer
Later, country music performer Big Kenny told a smaller, rival
rally of opponents of mountaintop removal that the coal industry
does not speak for all of Appalachia.
In mountaintop removal mining, forests are clear-cut, explosives
blast apart the rock, and machines scoop out the exposed coal. The
earth left behind is dumped into valleys, covering intermittent
streams. Coal operators say it's the most efficient way to reach
some reserves, and that it supports tens of thousands of jobs and
provides coal for electricity. Opponents say it pollutes water,
defaces majestic scenery and obliterates the quiet country
The coal industry has filed a lawsuit against the EPA's new
policy which tightened water quality standards for valley fills at
surface coal mines in West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio,
Virginia and Tennessee. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said the
goal is a standard so strict that few, if any, permits would be
issued for valley fills.
Ralliers wore blue Faces of Coal T-shirts, and some sported hard
hats. They hoisted signs that said, "Coal Keeps the Lights on,"
and "Coal Miners 'Dig' Their Jobs."
When an opening prayer was given, it included thanks to God for
natural resources such as coal.
"They're trying to take our jobs," yelled Haven King, a
65-year-old retired coal miner from Hazard, Ky. "We have to stand
West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, said that the EPA is
West Virginia will fight back and every coal state must fight
back," he said.
The state's senior senator, Democrat Jay Rockefeller, said that
the EPA's Jackson "doesn't understand the sensitivities
economically of what unemployment means. Her job is relatively
simple: clean everything up, keep it clean, don't do anything to
disturb perfection. Well, you can't do coal and do that at the same
time. God didn't make coal to be an easy thing to work with."
EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan responded: "This administrator
has been clear in rejecting the false suggestion that any of the
steps EPA is taking actually threaten to weaken the economy or
Next January, the EPA plans to start regulating greenhouse gas
emissions that are blamed for global warming, another cause of
alarm for the coal miners. Rockefeller has sponsored legislation to
suspend that for two years.
Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., urged support for Rockefeller's measure.
"We are not going to let the EPA regulate coal out of
business," he said.
Although the rally was billed as bipartisan and a number of
Democrats spoke, there were some partisan comments, especially from
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. He said that this
administration and current Congress are the most anti-coal in
"Send them a message on November 2," he yelled to cheers.
The rival rally was organized by the Natural Resources Defense
Council's Music Saves Mountains campaign, which features singers
and musicians who support the group's anti-mountaintop mining
effort. Only three-dozen or so people showed up, but this isn't the
main event: opponents expect thousands to attend their Appalachia
Rising rally in D.C. on Sept. 27.
People here sported signs like, "Topless Mountains are
Obscene" and "Save a Mountain, Build a Windmill."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)