Standing up to King Coal

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"We want the bulldozers to stay off our mountains' backs."

KY protesters rally against mountaintop mining

As one group of environmentalists ended its three-day sit-in in the governor's office, hundreds of others marched to the state Capitol Monday, rallying against the destruction caused by Eastern Kentucky strip mining.

Speakers praised the U.S. EPA, which has tightened its enforcement of clean water rules, and criticized Gov. Steve Beshear, who's joined the coal industry to sue the EPA over its policies.

"The governor is a friend of mine," said U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-3rd District, "and I want to see him get re-elected. But he and I are on way different ends of the spectrum on this."

Playing off Beshear's comment—that he wanted the EPA to "get off our backs," Yarmuth said: "We want the bulldozers to stay off our mountains' backs."

He touted a bill he has cosponsored in Congress, the Clean Water Protection Act, which he said "would effectively end mountaintop-removal mining."

Participants in the rally, part of the annual "I Love Mountains Day," objected to the mining practices that blow off the tops and sides of mountains to get at buried coal. Companies then push waste rock into the upper reaches of mountain streams, creating what they call hollow fills.

Monday's emotional high point came at the beginning of the rally, when 14 activists emerged from their three-day stay in the Capitol as a protest against strip mining.

In an impromptu meeting with Berry and the other protesters Friday, Beshear said he did not agree that surface mining needed to be stopped. "I do think surface mining can be done in a responsible way," he said then.

He defended his decision last fall to sue the EPA, saying the agency had imposed new regulations against coal mining that were "arbitrary and unreasonable."

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