PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WSAZ) -- What may have been the biggest battle yet over mountaintop mining grew loud and strong throughout the coalfields and beyond Tuesday night.
The issue is a federal proposal to change the permitting process for surface mining. The fight is the environment versus the economy, with many forecasting doom if any change is made.
Pro surface mining folks say any change in what is now a streamlined process to get a permit will destroy coal mining in Appalachia. Those who support a tougher permitting process say our streams and our land will die without change.
A few thousand mostly pro-coal folks filled the Pikeville Expo Center, where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it wanted to hear from the public before deciding on an Obama Administration proposal to include more stream and land impact checks in granting permits to mine coal above ground.
The loud and united crowd cheered speakers one-by-one who basically said -- if the Corps bans, suspends or modifies the current permitting system -- jobs and prosperity in the coalfields will just end, period.
These hearings are underway in several states. The Corps said it will not make a decision on surface mining permits until it listens to all points of view. That decision may not come for several months.