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WVU Sierra Student Coalition Speaks Out to End Streamlined MTR Permits
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by Joe Gorman, WVU SSC Member | 2009

WVU students speak at a hearing in Pittsburgh on the Federal Nationwide Permit 21, that regulates Mountaintop Removal mining

On Thursday, Oct. 15, several members of the Sierra Student Coalition spoke at the federal Nationwide Permit 21 hearings in Pittsburgh. The Army Corps of Engineers held the hearings to seek public input on their proposal to suspend and modify NWP 21, which is a streamlined permitting process for permitting projects that impact the nation’s waters. NWP 21 has been abused for years by mountaintop removal (MTR) coal operators to bypass the Clean Water Act.

The students spoke before anyone representing other environmental organizations or coal companies took the stand. WVU student and Sierra Student Coalition member Joe Gorman set the tone for the evening’s forum, stating “given the wording of Nationwide Permit 21, the illegality of Nationwide Permit 21 for mountaintop removal is irrefutable.” WVU student and SSC member Surya Manivannan gave comments not as an environmentalist, but as a humanitarian who believes that clean, safe drinking water is a human right.

Unlike hearings in Charleston, WV, and Pikeville, KY, the crowd (which included hundreds of miners and mining supporters) remained mostly civil throughout the evening. Only when Joshua Zorich, the night’s penultimate speaker and a Pittsburgh native, began to talk about civil conversation between the two groups did mining supporters jeer and boo. George Ellis, president of the Pennsylvania Coal Association, concluded the evening by denouncing West Virginians for traveling to Pittsburgh to the hearing. A band of Pittsburgh policemen then held environmental activists in the convention center until the crowd dispersed.

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