FRANKFORT — Author Wendell Berry and 13 other environmental activists emerged from the state Capitol on Monday to roars of approval and applause, ending their four-day occupation of Gov. Steve Beshear's outer office.
The protesters joined several hundred people on the Capitol steps for the "I Love Mountains" rally, an annual event held to promote "stream saver" legislation that effectively would end mountaintop removal coal mining in Eastern Kentucky. Previous bills died for lack of action; similarly, this year's bills are languishing in committee.
"We came because the land, its forests and its streams are being destroyed by the surface mining of coal; because the people are suffering intolerable harm to their homes, their health and their communities; and because all the people downstream are threatened by the degradation and contamination of the rivers," Berry, who lives in Henry County, told the crowd.
Speakers criticized Beshear for attacking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in speeches and in court, where his administration has joined the Kentucky Coal Association in a lawsuit against the EPA's more aggressive enforcement of water pollution rules.
In particular, they mocked Beshear's demand, in his State of the Commonwealth address this month, that EPA regulators "get off our backs."
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