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Have you heard of mountaintop removal coal mining? The companies who do it prefer the more value neutral “mountaintop mining.” But the “removal” part is very descriptive.  The practice involves blowing off the tops of mountains to get at the coal underneath. Leftover rubble is dumped into the mountain valleys, burying hundreds of streams, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

This goes on mostly in Appalachia, so you may be wondering what it has to do with the District. While D.C. doesn’t have any coalmines or coal-fired power plants, the city relies on electricity from coal produced in other states, according to American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a trade association.

In my less than comprehensive Internet search, I have failed to unearth, so to speak, the exact amount of D.C.’s electricity that is fueled by mountaintop removal coal. (Does anyone know? Please share.) Suffice it to say, however, that if we go on this way S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford is going to have to come up with a different excuse next time he rendezvous with his Argentine paramour because the Appalachian Trail will be an even less viable excuse.

This brings me to my point: Activists fighting to end mountaintop removal and miners looking to keep the practice alive are set to face off on the Hill any minute now. The Senate Environment and Public Work Committee’s Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife is holding a hearing this afternoon that environmentalists and Appalachian activists hope will mark the beginning of the end of mountaintop removal.  Both sides have descended on D.C. by the busload. According to my sources, the first skirmish was over seating in the hearing room. But you don’t have to leave the comfort of your Internet connection because all the action will be webcast, live blogged and twittered.