“This is about Obama’s war on coal,” Rep. Ben Waide, R-Madisonville, said to the cheers of a crowd of more than 500 coal supporters at the commonwealth’s capital.

During the past two years, according to the NMA, Kentucky regulators and the governor’s office worked with EPA’s Region 3 to reach an agreement on the permit conditions for surface mines in eastern Kentucky. Believing they had reached consensus, Kentucky approved the permits, only to have EPA headquarters turn them down, questioning the Kentucky Division of Water’s analysis and saying it didn’t think the state accurately measured the potential damage posed by the mines.

The NMA and the Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security (FACES) coordinated with the Kentucky Coal Association and Coal Operators Association to bring this critical matter to the attention of the local community and media. As a result, representatives of Kentucky coal mining participated in live, televised interviews across the state to bring further attention to the matter.

Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, said, however, he does not expect EPA officials to back off their objections as a result of the hearings. “I don’t know what kind of evidence it would take for them to change their minds,” Bissett said.

Regulators were accepting written comments until June 21. After which, the EPA will decide whether to affirm, alter or withdraw its objections to the permits.