Federal regulators have scheduled what promises to be a heated public hearing on two mountaintop removal strip mine permits for Oct. 24, officials announced Wednesday.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will host the hearing, which was requested by environmental groups concerned about mountaintop removal's long-term ecological effects.
"The practices of mountaintop removal and valley fills have raised many questions and concerns from the public in West Virginia," EPA Region III Administrator W. Michael McCabe said in a news release. "The hearing will provide an impartial forum for them to be heard."
McCabe plans to run the hearing, which is scheduled for noon to 5 p.m. at the Savas Kostas Theater at Southern West Virginia Community College in Logan.
Mountaintop removal mining blasts the tops off Appalachian hills so that huge shovels and dozers can shave off valuable low-sulfur coal underneath.
Leftover rock and earth is dumped into nearby hollows and streams in waste piles called valley fills.
At least 134 such mines in West Virginia - and probably twice that many - have been permitted to flatten tens of thousands of acres of West Virginia.
The hearing Oct. 24 will focus on two massive mountaintop removal operations: