Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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February 15, 2010

Va. senate will not take up surface mining bill

BLUEFIELD, Va. — After coal industry supporters from southwestern Virginia showed up in Richmond, Va., last week to voice opposition to a bill that would have had an incredible impact on surface coal mining in the Old Dominion, the committee that was set to discuss the issue on Monday, did not meet as scheduled.

Today is crossover day in the Virginia General Assembly, and since the bill — Senate Bill 564 — did not come before the committee for a vote, it is passed by until the 2011 session of the Virginia General Assembly. Starting on Wednesday, the senate will take up bills that have passed in the house, and the house will consider legislation passed by the senate. The 2010 session is scheduled to adjourn on March 13.

State Senator Patricia S. Ticer, D-Fairfax, served as the patron of SB 564, a bill that would prohibit surface mining in Virginia unless coal mine operators can demonstrate that the overburden removed in the mining process won’t be disposed in an intermittent, perennial or ephemeral stream. Ticer chairs the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee.

“The bill passed by for the year with no meeting,” State Senator Phillip P. Puckett, D-Russell said. Puckett also serves on the Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee. “It was clear that there weren’t enough votes in the committee to get it passed. I voted against it once, and I was looking forward to voting against it again.”

Puckett was one of several regional legislators and coal industry supporters who spoke out against the bill during a public hearing on Feb. 11. “There was no discussion on the bill other than the discussion during the public hearing,” he said. “The committee passed it by for this year.”

The members of the Eastern Coal Council traveled to Richmond from Southwest Virginia and expressed strong opposition to the bill at the public hearing, saying: “SB 564 is not designed just to end mountaintop mining as some have claimed, but rather it would stop all coal mining in Virginia,” Jack Richardson, chairman of the council was quoted as stating in a press release. “The economy of Virginia depends on coal and can ill afford to be jeopardized in this way.”

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