Coal supporters have gathered outside the Expo Center to urge EPA officials to approve the 36 permits, while environmentalists say doing that would pollute streams.
The first hearing was at noon Thursday at the Expo Center and dozens of coal supporters lined up to share their thoughts on the EPA's regulations. Some in favor of the EPA also stood up to speak.
As the hearing began, EPA officials took a minute to explain their reasoning behind the permit regulations.
“Our desire with the EPA is for the commonwealth to move forward and issue permits that require these kinds of innovative approaches and that have appropriate pollutant limits to protect water quality,” Jim Jitina, Director of Water Protection Agency said.
One by one those in favor of coal mining stood up to speak their minds.
“Time and time again the EPA has tried to bypass Congress and weaken state authority and they make no secret of this administration's intentions to shut down Kentucky coal,” Danielle Smoot said.
They brought up the history of coal mining in Eastern Kentucky and the background that so many people have with coal in Appalachia.
“They're proud to be children and grandchildren of the coal miners that provided energy for this state for years,” James Millinan said.
But those in favor of the EPA's regulations argued that the goal isn't to shut down coal mining entirely.
“The real question is not whether coal will be mined in Kentucky but rather which companies will be allowed to mine. The companies that respect the law? Or companies that break the law and disrespect the people of eastern KY,” Erin Savage said.
“70,000 acres have been strip mined here over 5,6,7 decades. If that were good for the economy the streets ought to be paved with gold right?” Matt Watson said.
EPA officials tried to ensure the crowds that their voices will be heard.
“I am hopeful that we will be successful in reaching an agreement on these permits and that the state will move forward to issue them,” Jitina said.
They stressed that no decisions have been made on the 36 permits in question.