EPA May Veto Massive Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining Site

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Friday it may veto the permit for one of the largest mountaintop removal operations ever proposed in
Central Appalachia.

The agency proposed under the Clean Water Act to significantly restrict or prohibit mountain top mining at the Spruce No. 1 surface mine in Logan County, West Virginia. The project was permitted in 2007 and subsequently delayed by litigation.

The Spruce No. 1 mine would bury over 7 miles of headwater streams, directly impact 2,278 acres of forestland and degrade water quality in streams adjacent to the mine, EPA said.

EPA’s proposed determination comes after extended discussions with the company failed to produce an agreement that would lead to a significant decrease of the environmental and health impacts of the Spruce No. 1 mine.

“Coal, and coal mining, is part of our nation’s energy future, and for that reason EPA has made repeated efforts to foster dialogue and find a responsible path forward. But we must prevent the significant and irreversible damage that comes from mining pollution–and the damage from this project would be irreversible,” said EPA Regional Administrator for the Mid-Atlantic, Shawn Garvin.

EPA has used its Clean Water Act veto authority in just 12 circumstances since 1972 and never for a previously permitted project.

The proposed determination, signed today by Regional Administrator Garvin, identifies numerous potential adverse impacts on water quality and fish and wildlife.

The Clean Water Act authorizes EPA to restrict or prohibit placing certain pollutants in streams, lakes, rivers, wetlands and other waters if the agency determines that the activities would result in “unacceptable adverse impacts” to the environment, water quality, or water supplies. 

A final decision to restrict or prohibit the Spruce No.1 mine will be made in EPA Headquarters based on a recommendation from the Regional Administrator, public comments, and discussions with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Mingo Logan Coal Company.

The proposed determination is open to public comment for 60 days.

Enivronmentalists have been sorely disappointed with the Obama administration’s stance on mountaintop removal coal mining and unwillingness to shut it down. However, in Septmber 2009, the EPA said it has concerns about the potential impact of dozens of mining operations under review.

In Related News…

In addition to the massive environmental destruction caused by mountaintop removal coal mining, the practice also significantly boosts the carbon footprint of the extracted coal, according to new research. 

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