Thursday, October 4, 2007

Setback for Mountain Justice Activists


Office of Surface Mining (OSM) Openly Disgraces Public Particpation in Major Rule Change Proposal

The Office of Surface Mining has un-publicly announced public hearings on a highly controversial Bush Administration rule change proposal will be held on Oct 24th, "somewhere" in Knox County. In the face of strong criticism from SOCM, the agency notified a few individuals with less then 15 working days notice for major pubic hearing, and the agency still refuses to announce location for hearing.

According to Lauren McGrath, Staff of TN-based Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM), "its less then fifteen full working days between now and one of the most controversial rule changes this administration has put forth. The fact that the Office of Surface Mining is refusing to disclose the location of the hearing is a complete insult to public participation. It begs question of whether or not the Office of Surface Mining and Bush Administration actually considers this to be a public process".

According to Ann League, vice-president of SOCM, "We've been waiting almost THREE years for the Environmental Impact Statement on this proposed change. Now, they are expecting citiens feedback and particpation on a 162 page Environmental Impact Statement and proposed rule change in only a few weeks. This is a flagrant demonstration that these agencies are trying to fast track a highly controversial rule change and eliminate avenues for public participation".

When SOCM contacted the Office of Surface Mining on this matter, David Hartos of OSM stated, "we're sorry we can not disclose the location of the hearing yet, but when we do, we're sure that organizations such as yourself will get the word to citizens so that they can participate".

According to SOCM staff and members, "this is a insult to public involvement and open political process, they know that coal is under heat from climate change proponents and that fast-tracking a modern day coal rush is politically unpopular. This isn't about clarifying the stream buffer zone rule, its about finding a way to legally fast track this rule change before the elections, and with as little citizens input as possible."

On August 24th, the Bush Administration proposed repealiing a long standing environmental protection law in order to allow the coal industy to engag in "mountaintop removal" mining. In Sept, 07 poll released by the Civil Society Institue, demontationed that "77% of Americans feel it would be better for the Bush Administration to concentrate first on energy conservation before resorting to more mountaintop removal"

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