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Coal miners voice concerns at EPA hearing

Kentuckians got the chance tonight to voice their opinion on current coal mining restrictions.

Coal supporters gathered by the hundreds for a meeting a year and a half in the making.

"We have 36 permits that have been held up in review for a matter of a couple years now," explained James River Coal's Brian Patton.

Patton felt Tuesday night was his chance to let the Environmental Protection Agency know his industry needs wastewater discharge permits. The EPA hasn't issued the permits yet because they say the state can't guarantee the quality of water will remain the same.

"It's a very basic permitting process, it's no different than if you have water discharging off of any other site here a farm, or a golf course or so forth," says Patton, "and without that permit we're unable to mine coal legally."

"They're not out to take people's jobs. They don't have a vengeance against the coal industry. They're just seeking to make it right," explains EPA supporter and former coal miner Nick Mullins.

Both groups, speaking on behalf of the state Tuesday night, had some very different messages to convey.

"What we want them to take back to their leaders in Washington is that Kentuckians overwhelmingly support our industry and also really want them to release these permits so Kentuckians can go to work," says Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett.

The EPA will hold two other public hearings Thursday in Pikeville at the Eastern Kentucky Expo Center. The first is from noon to 4 p.m. and the second will be from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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