The Obama administration has come down hard on the process of mountain top removal and valley fill as currently regulated. The Gazette, the Charleston, West Virginia newspaper, has a well-linked blog through which you can follow the process of permitting America’s coal mines under the new administration. These are complicated issues with no easy answer. I refer to it as the unstoppable force (need for coal) — meeting the unmovable object (enforcement of the popular regulatory process).
What happens when the coal companies are forced to permit mines, and on-site mitigation activities are no longer allowed? RS thinks a need for 178,122 off-site credits for stream mitigation. We are here to help.
Late last week — just before the Labor Day holiday — the Obama administration EPA issued a mountaintop removal bombshell: A major letter that blasts a whole host of problems with the largest strip-mining permit ever issued in the state of West Virginia.
EPA experts have concluded that the mine, as currently designed and permitted, would violate the federal Clean Water Act. They’ve urged the Army Corps of Engineers to suspend, revoke or modify the permit. In response, Corps lawyers have asked U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers for a 30-day stay in legal proceedings over this permit, to give Corps staffers time to re-examine the project.
I’ve posted a copy of the EPA letter to the Corps here, and a copy of the Corps’ legal motion here. The letter was dated last Thursday and the legal motion was filed the following day.
In the five-page letter, EPA experts express grave concerns about the mine’s “potential to degrade downstream water quality, and to cause or contribute to potential excursions of West Virginia’s narrative water quality standards.”
EPA also cautioned that “additional valley fill minimization techniques such as further backstacking material on-site where appropriate, inclusion of sidehill fills with stream relocations, or other design modifications to ameliorate water quality impacts need serious consideration” from the company.
And, EPA said that “scientific and field observations strongly suggest that compensatory mitigation measures heretofore accepted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, such as on-site stream creation, may not result in functional replacement with specific performance criteria.”
Read on for more on the EPA letter …