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EPA Revokes Mountaintop Mining Permit

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday that it is revoking a water permit for one of the nation’s largest mountaintop removal mine projects because it would pollute water, harm wildlife and Appalachian communities in West Virginia.

EPA’s assistant administrator for water, Peter S. Silva told the Associated Press that the agency was employing a rarely used veto power because Arch Coal’s Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County, West Virginia would use “destructive and unsustainable” mining practices.

The move formalizes an action the agency first threatened nine months ago.

St. Louis-based Arch Coal issued a statement saying it was “shocked and dismayed’’ by the EPA’s assault on a permit that was legitimately issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, and vowed to continue fighting for the mine.

According to the EPA, the nearly 2,300-acre Spruce mine would bury 7 miles of streams, and the EPA has previously ruled it would probably harm downstream water quality. Arch has planned to invest $250 million in the project, creating 250 jobs, but the mine has been delayed by lawsuits since it was permitted in 2007.

Mining already underway in a small portion of the Spruce site won’t be affected by the EPA ruling, which prohibits new, large-scale operations in other areas.

Democratic U.S. senator Joe Manchin, a former West Virginia governor whose administration sued the EPA last year over its more stringent regulation of mountaintop removal coal mining, called the ruling “fundamentally wrong’’ and “a shocking display of overreach.’’

“This is not just an attack on coal or West Virginia – this is an attack on the whole process in America,” Manchin told the Charleston Daily Mail.

But Silva said the EPA is acting within its legal authority.

“Coal and coal mining are part of our nation’s energy future, and EPA has worked with companies to design mining operations that adequately protect our nation’s waters,’’ Silva said in a statement. “We have a responsibility under the law to protect water quality and safeguard the people who rely on clean water.’’

Silva noted this is only the 13th time EPA has used its Clean Water Act veto authority.

Arch, which is the second largest U.S. coal producer, has been unable to work out a deal with the EPA to modify the permit as at least one other coal mining company has done. Arch said it would continue to pursue its case against the EPA in court.

The company filed a case in April 2010 to block the EPA from revoking the permit, but the lawsuit has not moved forward, largely because the agency had yet to make a final decision until now.

Now that the decision has been made, Arch is likely to amend its court filing to try to overturn the EPA’s decision.

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6 thoughts on “EPA Revokes Mountaintop Mining Permit

  1. Great news from the EPA. That is their job to protect the rest of the country and to maintain our fresh water supply. Coal is the a pollutant squared. I am happy to see the Government protecting it’s people and our people’s future.

  2. Thanks to the EPA for taking a stand to protect our water and the surrounding communities. Now we all need to do our part and lower our energy use!

  3. Thank You EPA for having the guts the Legislature is lacking to protect the environment and all of the globes inhabitants even the numb skulls who are fighting you not to do it!

  4. YES. This is an attack on the stupidity and shortsightedness of those who would destroy the Earth for the sake of the only natural resource they value, money.

  5. I truly hope each of you will enjoy paying double what your electric bill is now, and since you are against coal I take it you are against oil as well – so in 2012 enjoy your $5.00 a gallon gas too! Cheers to you! Coal supplies 50% of the nations electricity – deal with it or pay more than you ever thought possible.

  6. Dear Shocked,

    Rates will not double as you suggest. Already, the majority of new electrical production in this country is fired by natural gas – not by coal. NG emits half the CO2 per KWhr. Indeed, coal plants are increasingly being retired or converted (most coal plants are now 40 to 50 years old and in need of refurbishment anyway). And by the way, the second largest source of new electrical capacity in this country is wind.

    Coal will be increasingly less important as time marches on. Which is a good thing, since it emits so much CO2, SO2, mercury, etc.; and produces such large amounts of fly ash. And since the extraction of coal produces such unacceptable environmental harm. Coal is a lose-lose proposition.

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