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It’s been one week since a group of protesters ended their sit-in at Governor Steve Beshear’s office. A group of 14 protesters spent the weekend in Beshear’s office protesting the surface mining technique commonly called Mountaintop Removal. The sit-in ended with the annual I Love Mountains Day rally in Frankfort on the 14th.

Kentucky author Silas House was among the 14. An essay about the experience and mountaintop removal was published in Saturday’s New York Times.

From House’s op-ed:

The news media and the rest of the country typically think of mountaintop removal as an environmental problem. But it’s a human crisis as well, scraping away not just coal but also the freedoms of Appalachian residents, people who have always been told they are of less value than the resources they live above.

A few days after the rally, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on a spending bill that weakens the federal government’s ability to regulate mountaintop removal, though the bill may not pass the Senate.

The House debate over EPA spending overlapped with the state Senate’s Natural Resource and Energy Committee vote to declare Kentucky a “sanctuary state” that’s exempt from EPA regulation. That legislation also faces an uncertain future.

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Fourteen protesters have ended their three-day sit-in at Governor Steve Beshear’s office. And while the protesters didn’t get the concessions they wanted from the governor, they say the effort was worthwhile, in part because of the response they received from the public.

The group, known as Kentucky Rising, occupied the governor’s office from Friday morning through Monday morning to protest Beshear’s support for the mining process commonly called mountaintop removal.

“I’ve mined coal. And I’ve got friends right here that’s done the same thing. We are here because we want to keep our mountains and water in the condition they were given to us by the good Lord above. And I’m a firm believer that he entrusted us to keep them this way,” says protester Stanley Sturgill.

“We’ve heard from people in Argentina, Germany, all over the United States. 500 farmers in Vermont.signed their names to a letter of support and sent it. Churches all over the south reported they were holding prayer services for them,” says group spokesperson Silas House.

Supporters brought so much food for the group that the demonstrators couldn’t eat it all and donate some of it to a local women’s shelter.

They emerged to a boisterous welcome from the roughly one thousand demonstrators who gathered on the steps of the state Capitol for the annual I Love Mountains Day rally. Beshear did not change his positions regarding mountaintop removal, but he did agree to tour mountaintop removal sites at the group’s request.

by Graham Shelby

Fourteen protesters will be spending the weekend in the office of Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear.

They belong to an environmental group called Kentucky Rising that gathered in the governor’s office this morning to demand a meeting with the governor. Beshear met with the demonstrators, who voiced their objection to mountaintop removal mining and their concerns about the environmental damaged caused by coal mining in eastern Kentucky.

In his State of the Commonwealth speech last week, Beshear called for the EPA to get off the backs of the state and the coal industry. One of the protesters, Jason Howard, objected to that.

“It’s not the EPA and the federal government that needs to get off your back. It’s the coal industry and your administration that needs to get off our backs,” said Howard.

Beshear didn’t offer to change his positions. The group decided to continue their protest in the governor’s office. They were prepared to be arrested at the end of the day on Friday.

Instead, the governor told them they can stay as long as they like. The group plans to stay through Monday when other environmental activists will gather in Frankfort for a rally called I Love Mountains Day.

by Graham Shelby

Author Wendell Berry is one of a group of protesters staging a sit-in in the office of Governor Beshear at this hour. The group is demanding a meeting with the governor to discuss ending the practice of mountaintop removal mining and creating a new economic model for Kentucky.

The group of twenty calls itself Kentucky Rising and says Beshear has refused previous meeting requests. They say they plan to stay in the governor’s office until he meets with them or orders them removed from the building.

In addition to Berry, the protest group includes Kentucky authors Silas House and Erik Reece as well as activists and retired coal miners.

Beshear’s office tells WFPL the governor is willing to meet the group, but will not have time today.

Demonstrator Jason Howard is tweeting from the sit-in.

We’ll have more on this as it develops.

Anti-bridge activist Stu Noland has been voicing his opposition to the Ohio River Bridges Project in chalk. I’ve seen his tags downtown and in Waterfront Park, on supports for the interstate. LEO reports this week that Noland’s chalking got him into trouble with the law:

Recently, Metro Police detained and cited Noland after a security guard caught him spreading the message near City Hall. During the ordeal, Noland says he was handcuffed and searched for the arsenal of chalk.

“I think it’s safe to say if I was chalking puppies and rainbows no one would have had a problem,” says Noland, founder of Save Louisville, an organization opposed to the massive construction project. “It’s selective enforcement because of the message. I kept saying to the officer, ‘Seriously, guy, chalk?’”

The citation lists a Metro ordinance that puts graffiti under criminal mischief, but only mentions aerosol spray paint, broad-tipped indelible markers or etching acid. The law doesn’t specifically mention the easily removed, powdery crayons under its definitions.

Furthermore, during Earth Day 2003 at the Louisville Zoo, children were allowed to draw on the sidewalk with colored chalk to show ways to prevent water pollution. And during last year’s Idea Festival, no one had a problem when “Sidewalk Picasso” Julian Beever adorned downtown Louisville’s sidewalks with three-dimensional chalk illusions.

Advocacy group Big Wildlife is opposed to Saturday’s bear hunt, and not just because you shouldn’t eat bears. Here’s the group’s press release:

Today the international wildlife advocacy group, Big Wildlife, condemned the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) for approving the state’s first legal hunt of black bears in modern times. The bear hunt, Kentucky’s first bear hunt in 100 years, will take place over the weekend in Harlan, Letcher and Pike counties. Big Wildlife said trophy hunting of bears is scientifically indefensible, unnecessary, and cruel and urged the state to abandon the bear killing program. An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 bears are legally hunted in the U.S. each year while an unknown number are also illegally poached.

”Bear hunting is bad news for bears. Instead of letting trophy hunters turn these magnificent animals into throw rugs by the fireplace, Kentucky officials should provide vigorous protections for bears,” said Brian Vincent, Communications Director with Big Wildlife, an international wildlife advocacy organization based in Williams, Oregon.

Big Wildlife said it opposed bear hunting for a number of reasons:

· Trophy hunting of bears is indiscriminate. While Kentucky officials say the hunt is necessary to “manage” so-called “nuisance” bears, trophy hunting doesn’t target the very few individual bears who may create conflicts. Big Wildlife said rather than pouring limited state resources into administering a new bear hunt, the KDFWR should educate the public about taking simple, non-lethal measures, such as properly securing garbage, to avoid encounters with bears.

· Kentucky, along with other states that permit bear hunting, has failed to assess the impacts of poaching. Illegal killing of bears has increased nationwide, fueled by a booming international market, for bear parts, especially bear gallbladders used in traditional Asian medicine and bear paws, considered a delicacy in soup. Bear gallbladders can go for $5,000 a pound, an enticing price that has spurred bear poaching throughout the US. There are no federal restrictions on selling bear parts in the US. Each state has its own laws regulating the trade. Big Wildlife said legal hunting of bears is especially troubling because it provides cover for “piggy-back” poaching.

· Hunting puts additional pressures on bears, who are facing a host of threats from poaching, habitat fragmentation and destruction, human encroachment into wildlife areas, aggressive government lethal control programs, and climate change.

· Hunting of bears ignores the ecological value of these animals. Bears often scavenge for food, playing an important role in recycling carrion.

“Bears are being squeezed by a growing number of threats from hunting, poaching, deforestation, and human encroachment into wildlife habitat. State wildlife officials should be shutting down hunting of black bears across the US, not opening up new seasons on bears,” Vincent said. “Most people with an ounce of compassion think putting a target on the back of Smokey is cruel and unnecessary,” said Vincent.

While you wait for Charlie Strong to come to town or for the Galt House to be blown to Lexington, why not take a moment to reminisce?

Starting with the inauguration and continuing through multiple tea parties, 2009 was  an exciting year for posterboard on sticks. Buzzfeed has a (mildly NSFW) gallery of the year’s 50 best protest signs.

I’m simply an observer and reporter in political matters like this, but I have to agree with this young man’s sentiment:

Students on the University of Kentucky campus placed banners on campus yesterday to protest how the school names buildings, specifically the “Wildcat Coal Lodge.”

With the government blocking large mountaintop removal projects and anti-government(read: anti-Obama) sentiment on the rise, it’s easy to tie an industry’s fight against regulation to the libertarian-leaning Tea Party-type protests. After all, the two sides share a common enemy.

The coal industry has already thrown one tea-party type event in West Virginia, and the AP reportsd on another, less violent (but perhaps equally raucous) event in Pikeville, Kentucky.

Most of what the corps said was a turnout of 4,800 in Pikeville and Charleston, however, showed their disapproval for a move by the administration of President Barack Obama to curb mountaintop mining. In Kentucky, pro-mining banners flapped in the breeze outside. One proclaimed: “Coal Feeds My Family.” Another: “Got Electricity? Thank a miner.”

Miners and their families were trying to convince the administration to back away from restrictions that would make it more difficult, perhaps impossible, to get the federal permits necessary to blast away mountains.

Miner Junie Halcomb’s T-shirt asked one question about coal: “Can Obama’s America Survive Without It?” Halcomb thinks he answer is no, at least in the impoverished coal mining region of central Appalachia.

“It’s going to put a lot of people out work,” Halcomb said. “We can’t survive without coal money.”

Feelings ran much the same in West Virginia.

“Leave our mining to us and our livelihood. You will kill our state,” said Diann Kish, who called herself the wife, mother and daughter of coal miners.

Do you think there’s a responsibility on the part of the government to give displaced mineworkers priority for stimulus or green energy jobs?

Here’s what we reported on today:

Sorry, nothing about the new iPods.

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