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Associated Press

Mountaintop Removal Mining Protests Going National

Vicki Smith

Miranda Miller, facing camera, was one of seven environmental protestors that was arrested for trespassing in the Governor's Reception Room at the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston, W.Va. Monday, Oct. 19, 2009. The protestors sat down in the early afternoon vowing to not leave until Governor Joe Manchin agreed to change the state's mountaintop removal mining policy and were arrested for refusing to leave when the office closed at 5PM. (AP Photo/Bob Bird)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Activists with
Mountain Justice, Rainforest Action Network and other groups planned
protests at Environmental Protection Agency headquarters and across the
country Friday to demand the end of mountaintop removal mining in

An online map showed more than two dozen planned
events from California to Maine, including demonstrations at a regional
EPA office in Philadelphia and a New Jersey office of JPMorgan &
Chase Co., a bank environmentalists say is the biggest financier of the
destructive form of strip mining.

It was the third attempt at a
national protest since June, and evidence the environmentalists believe
the tide is turning in their favor under the Obama administration.

end of mountaintop removal is almost here," declares the Rainforest
Action Network on its Web site. "Political and financial
decision-makers in New York, Washington D.C. and across the country
continue to hear our message."

Chris Hamilton, vice president of
the West Virginia Coal Association, was out of the office Friday and
did not immediately return a cell phone message.

removal is a form of strip mining that blasts apart ridge tops to
expose multiple coal seams. Operators level off the peaks, then dump
rock and debris into valleys, sometimes covering intermittent streams
and changing the contour of the land.

Coal operators say it's
often the most efficient and sometimes the only way to get to reserves,
but many people who live near the mines say they suffer unacceptable
damage to the environment and their homes.

West Virginians Bo
Webb and Chuck Nelson were in Washington, D.C., with at least two dozen
other protesters, hoping to deliver a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa

"I do think it's turning in our direction. They're
starting to look at scientific evidence showing what filling in the
streams and valleys does to our headwaters, to the whole ecosystem,"
said Nelson, a disabled underground coal miner from Glen Daniel. "But
we need to stress to the EPA that they need to make a decision soon
because the longer this goes on, the more danger they're putting us in."

EPA recently revoked a permit for what could have been West Virginia's
largest mountaintop removal operation, citing "very serious concerns"
about possible Clean Water Act violations. It was the first time since
1972 the agency had used its authority to review a previously permitted

Two weeks ago, unruly crowds took over what were
intended to be public hearings in Kentucky and West Virginia on an Army
Corps of Engineers proposal to suspend or end a streamlined permitting
process for mountaintop removal mines. They shouted down and
intimidated the few environmentalists who showed up to support
individual reviews of operations.

"As long as there's that
uncertainty, not knowing what's going to happen, it's going to keep
causing tension in the communities and in the industry," Nelson said.
"The threats are becoming more intense because they're uncertain what
the future holds for them."

EPA administrators "need to make a quick decision about what is and what is not going to be allowed."

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