"Corps Defends Its Handling of Mine Hearing"

"CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Army Corps of Engineers officials on Wednesday defending their handling of a rowdy crowd of coal industry supporters who repeatedly interrupted other speakers at a mountaintop-removal public hearing Tuesday night.

'I believe that the hearing was conducted in an orderly fashion,' said Meg Gaffney-Smith, chief of the Corps of Engineers' permitting program. 'It was conducted in an appropriate fashion.'

Hundreds of coal supporters far outnumbered mountaintop-removal opponents at the hearing, one of six such events the corps scheduled this week. Agency officials are trying to gather public input on a proposal to stop streamlined reviews of mountaintop removal Clean Water Act permits.

At the hearing in Charleston, the crowd overflowed a 740-seat theater, and several hundred other coal supporters milled around outside waving signs and cheering while coal trucks drove around the block and honked their horns.

Inside the hearing, when several mountaintop-removal opponents tried to take their turn testifying, coal supporters yelled, jeered and booed, making it all but impossible for those speakers to be heard."

Ken Ward Jr. reports for the Charleston Gazette October 14, 2009.

Thursday, October 15, 2009