EPA hears coal ash comments as MTR protest gets buried

Yesterday, representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency listened to 11 hours worth of testimonies delivered by concerned citizens, environmental activists and pro-coal industry-types to aid the EPA in its adoption of new regulations for the toxic byproducts generated by the burning of coal (i.e. coal ash, fly ash, slurry, et al.).

That this hearing took place just two days after 100 protesters were arrested in Washington, D.C., for protesting an end to the destructive practice of mountaintop removal mining — and a week after Mitch McConnell fingerbanged headlined a FACES of Coal shill-a-thon in the same swampy town — suggests that coal-talk  is, for the moment, quite en vogue.

Yesterday’s public hearing — the seventh of eight nationwide hearings  the EPA is conducting to craft revised coal ash regulations that might actually be worth a damn — was held in a first floor conference room in downtown Louisville’s Seelbach Hilton Hotel. The hearings drew hundreds of people from across the state (and beyond) who argued for and against (1) a status-quo regulation that would favor Industry as well as (2) a more strident designation whereby coal ash would be labeled the hazardous waste that it is.

Highlights of the hearing included:

  • Greenpeace activists repelling down the side of the historic hotel to unfurl a banner (“PROTECT PEOPLE NOT POLLUTERS”) in an action that ultimately got them arrested for criminal trespass.
  • A pro-coal rally at Jefferson Square Park wherein several Kentucky elected officials (from both parties) guffawed and lied about the economic glories of coal to a gaggle of paid coal-industry shills who make their living off of turning the life-leeching byproducts of coal into wallboard and concrete, which make America safe from China and prevent unemployment rates form, uh, skyrocketing. According to The C-J, the officials in attendance were “Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee; House Democratic Floor Leader Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook; Jim Gooch, D-Providence, and chair of the House Natural Resources Committee; and Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville.”
  • A pro-environment/people/common sense rally held at featuring musicians Daniel Martin Moore and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, plus speeches from Monika Burkhead, a resident of Louisville’s polluted Riverside Gardens neighborhood, and Kentucky author Wendell Berry, whom was kind enough to chat with your humble correspondent during the rally’s march to LG&E parent E-On’s downtown headquarters. (No elected officials could be bothered to march with them, apparently.)
  • Plenty of cognitive dissonance on display by the pro-coal contingent, who routinely refused to acknowledge the negative health impacts of coal ash even as people suffering from its debilitating effects gave impassioned, often harrowing testimonies. Most notably, a gentleman afflicted with arsenic poisoning described how his stool uncontrollably leaks from his asshole and was followed by a pro-coal company man, whose comments consisted of the glories of coal waste recycling technologies and how he isn’t aware of any scientific evidence suggestive of negative health effects.
  • A press conference hosted by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the Sierra Club, in which elderly KFTC member Patty Wallace — who lives near an ash pond in Louisa, Ky. — made the connection between the day’s EPA hearing and Monday’s protest in D.C.: “I represent 7,000 members of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth. I understand that several hundred of them are in Washington and 100 were arrested last night. They were just standing up for Appalachia … that’s why we’re here today. We want to the EPA to join us in building New Power, creating clean energy. I want the EPA to help preserve my vision of Appalachia.”

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We’ll be providing a more in-depth look at what went down at the EPA hearing in next week’s issue of LEO — including testimonies from residents of the aforementioned Riverside Gardens neighborhood, which is located less than half a mile away from Louisville Gas & Electric’s Cane Run coal-fired power plant and coal ash impoundment site, and is battling the electric utility over a new proposed ash pond to be erected in their neighborhood — but in the meantime you can check out James Bruggers’ excellent coverage over at The Courier-Journal to tide you over.

For the remainder of this post, let’s take a look at Monday’s “Appalachia Rising” protest, in which 100 people were arrested for things like “sitting” in front of the White House.

From the Appalachia Rising website:

WASHINGTON DC —More than 100 people were arrested today during Appalachia Rising, the largest national protest to end mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. Arrests included Appalachian residents; retired coal miners; renowned climate scientist, James Hansen; and faith leaders. After a march from Freedom Plaza and a rally at Lafayette Park, more than 100 stage a sit-in in front of the White House to demand President Obama follow his own science and end mountaintop mining. The likely charge is obstruction.

In addition to the non-violent civil disobedience at the White House, four people were arrested during a sit-in at PNC bank for protesting the bank’s role as the lead U.S. financier of MTR.

“The science is clear, mountaintop removal destroys historic mountain ranges, poisons water supplies and pollutes the air with coal and rock dust,” said renowned climate scientist James Hansen, who was arrested in today’s protest at the White House. “Mountaintop removal, providing only a small fraction of our energy, can and should be abolished. The time for half measures and caving in to polluting industries must end.”

Appalachia Rising is being led by residents of West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee – Appalachian states directly impacted by mountaintop removal. They are calling for the Obama Administration to immediately abolish the practice of blowing up mountains and dumping the debris into nearby streams and valleys to reach seams of coal.

The amount of mainstream media coverage of this event paled in comparison to last week’s FACES of Coal rally, which was carried by most most major news networks and grossly misrepresented the conditions impacting miners and those who live near mountaintop removal sites in true, FOX NEWS-friendly bizarro fashion.

Here’s footage of the protest:

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