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Coal Industry Supporters Decry Plan to Veto Huge Mountaintop Coal Mine

Scientists for years have warned about the irreversible damage to Appalachian ecosystems caused by mountaintop removal coal mining (which makes sense, considering that the nation’s oldest mountains can’t grow back once they’ve been topped). But don’t tell that to the coal industry.

At a West Virginia hearing yesterday on the EPA’s controversial proposal to veto the permit for the largest mountaintop removal mine in the state’s history, hundreds of industry supporters — including Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) — blasted the agency for threatening jobs in the region. They’re claiming that the proposal to veto Arch Coal’s Spruce Mine puts politics above science — an ironic argument considering that there are clear signs that evidence-based decision-making is returning to the EPA after eight years in the wilderness of the Bush administration.

The Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward Jr. reports:

Supporters of the permit complained that EPA was wrong to step in after a mining permit was already issued, and that such an unusual step means no permit ever issued is safe from being later rescinded.

“EPA wants to take the permit away for what seem like political reasons, not scientific reasons,” said John McDaniel, a top Arch Coal engineer who worked on the Spruce Mine permit for more than a decade.

Rahall weighed in at the gathering as well. “Pursuing this course will have a chilling effect on the coal industry in West Virginia and the Appalachian region,” Rahall said, according to Ward.

“It sends a message to investors that no permit is ever assured and that money they might be willing to put into similar coal mining operations and coal jobs is nothing more than a high-risk bet,” Rahall said.

Spike Maynard, a former state Supreme Court Justice (and close friend of the industry) who’s challenging Rahall in November, was also on hand to rip the EPA’s veto proposal.

“The EPA has changed the rules mid-stream on our miners, and I don’t see how anyone could think that is fair.”

Funny that there were no similar complaints from industry supporters when the Bush White House changed the rules mid-stream on coal miners (see here and here).

Of course, those changes made it easier to blow up the mountains.

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