The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 3, 2012

Man walks 300 miles to D.C. - a third time - for coal

Hiker says industry under attack from Obama, EPA

BECKLEY, W.Va. — David "Bugs" Stover trekked from the coalfields of southern West Virginia to Washington, D.C. - on foot - to protest what he calls attacks on the coal industry by President Barak Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“America can’t let Obama’s regulations shut down the coal industry,” said Stover, who has walked to Washington two other times to support coal interests.

Stover, 57, began his most recent journey in the tiny unincorporated community of Maben on Nov. 16. He walked nearly 300 miles in hopes of personally talking to the president, though an invitation to the White House never came.

Stover did get time with three supportive members of West Virginia's congressional delegation: Rep. Nick Rahall, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Sen. Joe Manachin. In fact, he cut short his walk and caught a ride for the last 30 or so miles to be on time for meetings with the three last week.

He also took a break from walking to eat Thanksgiving dinner with his family, but returned to his route post-turkey.

In all, he spent about a week and a half on the road.

Sitting in Washington's Union Station - the same place where Jimmy Stewart arrives in the capital in his role in Frank Capra's iconic movie, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" - Stover described himself as generally weary.

Stover, who is Wyoming County's circuit clerk, said he was tired from "goose egg-sized bruises" and blisters on his feet, as well as a challenging political future for the coal industry. Even as coal production is expected to keep growing, he said, coal companies are fighting for "a common-sense balance between the government and the economy to survive."

During the fall campaign, Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney also criticized Obama for attacking the coal industry. However, energy analysts have said government restrictions on coal plant emissions are only part of the industry's worry; much of its condition is also the result of cheap supplies of natural gas.

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