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Hearing on Protecting Streams from Surface Mining Tonight

West Virginians will get to voice their opinions tonight in Charleston on a federal rule designed to protect streams. Credit: Trout Unlimited
West Virginians will get to voice their opinions tonight in Charleston on a federal rule designed to protect streams. Credit: Trout Unlimited
September 17, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginians get to have their say tonight on surface mining's impact on streams.

The federal Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) has been holding a series of public meetings around the country on a proposal known as the Stream Protection Rule.

Conservationists are encouraging people to show up at the Civic Center in Charleston for the last of these public hearings.

"People need to come out," encourages Bill Price, a senior organizing representative for the Sierra Club in West Virginia. "This is a very important rule. This has been something the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement have been working on for about six years now."

The coal industry has criticized the rule as federal over-regulation of surface mining and part of a so-called "war on coal."

Price says the rule is weaker than it should be, but still important for protection of the state's waterways.

The hearing is at 5 p.m. at the Charleston Civic Center. Price says the Sierra Club will be meeting at 3 p.m. to plan.

OSMRE did not include a formal buffer zone in the rule – a 100-foot area along a stream where companies can't mine.

Price says OSM replaced it with a more vague requirement that the mine operator has to return the water to the same quality it had before the mining started. He says the Sierra Club doesn't like that change, but the rule is definitely better than nothing.

"The rule is not perfect, but in general it's important to protecting the streams and the waters of Appalachia from the pollution that the coal industry has for years gotten away with," he states.

Price says OSMRE promises to provide security at the hearing, which he says should help make sure everyone gets his or her say.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV