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Tempers flare at Charleston stream rule hearing

Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by F. Brian Ferguson Coal miners and supporters packed Thursday’s public hearing on the new stream protection rules. Audience members gave their support to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who was first in line to make his statement at the Charleston Civic Center.
Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by F. Brian Ferguson
Coal miners and supporters packed Thursday’s public hearing on the new stream protection rules. Audience members gave their support to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who was first in line to make his statement at the Charleston Civic Center.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 100 people filled the Charleston Civic Center’s Little Theater Thursday night to voice their opposition or support for the newly proposed Stream Protection Rule, created by the federal Office of Surface Mining.

The public hearing was meant to provide an opportunity for citizens and local leaders to have their voices heard during the rule making process.

While the rule would expand environmental monitoring and restoration, increase protections for endangered species and strengthen bonding procedures for mines, it does not create a stream buffer rule, which would stop companies from dumping waste rock and dirt into nearby streams.

The Thursday hearing was the last of five that have been held across the country in places like Denver, Louisville, St. Louis and Pittsburgh, and comes several years after previous attempts to amend the 30-year-old rules were tied up in court.

The U.S. Department of the Interior estimated that the newly-proposed rule would ensure that 6,200 miles of streams nationwide would be “improved” or “protected” between 2020 and 2040.

But the comments during Thursday’s meeting were less about specifics and more about people’s interpretations of how the rule would affect their jobs, West Virginia’s economy and the country’s electricity supply…

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