EPA says 79 mountaintop removal permits need further review
In mountaintop removal mining, rock is blasted away to reveal mine seams and overburden is dumped into valley fills.
September 30, 2009 ·
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it will hold up approval of 79 permits for mountaintop removal operations in West Virginia and three other states because of environmental concerns.
The EPA says the mines would likely cause significant harm
to streams and rivers in West Virginia,
Twenty-three of those permits are in West
EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Peter S. Silva wrote
today, “After a careful evaluation of these surface coal mining projects, EPA
determined that each of them, as currently proposed, is likely to result in
significant harm to water quality and the environment and are therefore not
consistent with requirements of the CWA.”
The agency says it will work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reduce harm to water quality downstream from the proposed mines.
“The Corps of Engineers is now responsible under the
coordination process for beginning the next stage of discussions with EPA and
the mining companies to reduce anticipated environmental and water quality
impacts,” Silva wrote.
The letter sets in motion a process between the EPA and the
Corps over the next several months to try to alleviate the EPA’s clean water
In March, the EPA announced it would scrutinize pending
permits for valley fills associated with mountaintop removal mining.
Earlier this month, the EPA released a list of 79 proposed
permits which it thought could hurt the environment if approved.
The EPA’s new look at mountaintop removal mining has led to
renewed efforts by pro-mining groups. Industry leaders set up booths at coal
shows and rallies to make it easy for people to send a letter to Washington
to show opposition to the cap-and-trade bill and in favor of mountaintop
Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship and other sponsored a
“Friends of America Rally” on Labor Day, drawing thousands to a reclaimed
mountaintop removal site in Logan County.