Environmentalists and supporters of Kentucky’s coal mining industry clashed in a public debate Tuesday over what one state legislator called President Barack Obama’s “war on coal.”
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal
, federal regulators have blocked 36 state-issued mining permits, which led to the contentious hearing in Frankfort, where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) invited public comments on what it insists are efforts to protect the state’s waterways and public health.
The debate continued through the night, according to the newspaper, as Kentucky lawmakers, coal leaders, and other critics accused the federal government of overreaching its authority and harming the state’s economy.
“This is about Obama’s war on coal,” said state Rep. Ben Waide said at a rally of cheering coal supporters outside the hearing.
Meanwhile, environmentalists praised the EPA’s action, arguing the state and coal industry have failed to protect Kentucky’s environment from toxic runoff in mining operations and are violating the nation’s Clean Water Act.
Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, which has sued the EPA for blocking the mining permits, said the issue is attracting a lot of interest from “outside the coal fields” because this is an election year.
“There is a lot of concern that we have a federal government right now that is not concerned about Kentucky because they don’t need our support in the election,” he said.
A second round of public hearings is scheduled for Thursday.
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