EPA’s First Decision Under New Mountaintop Mining Guidelines Goes to King Coal

Written by Amanda Starbuck

Topics: Coal

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given a green light for the Pine Creek mine permit, an MTR mining site in Logan County, W.Va. This is the first permit decision the EPA has issued under the new mountaintop mining guidelines, which came out last April and were anticipated to provide tougher oversight of mountaintop removal coal mining.

I hoped that the MTR guidelines would provide protection for headwater streams by curbing the practice of dumping waste in neighboring valleys to create what is known as valley fills. The Pine Creek permit is the first test of these guidelines, and green lights three new valley fills (each over 40 acres large).

It was anticipated that these guidelines, by requiring mining operators to control levels of toxins in nearby streams, would significantly reduce the dumping of mining waste in valleys, which the EPA said was scientifically proven to contaminate drinking water and wreck ecosystems.

This is a devastating first decision under guidelines that had offered so much hope for Appalachian residents who thought the EPA was standing up for their health and water quality in the face of a horrific mining practice. The grand words being spoken by Administrator Jackson in DC are simply not being reflected in the EPA’s actions on-the-ground. This continues the inconsistent and contradictory decisions that have plagued the EPA’s process on mountaintop removal coal mining all along.

In announcing the new guidelines in April, Administrator Jackson told reporters: “We expect this guidance to change behaviors, to change actions, because if we keep doing what we have been doing, we’re going to see continued degradation of water quality… Minimizing the number of valley fills is a very, very key factor. You’re talking about no or very few valley fills that are going to be able to meet standards like this.”

The Pine Creek Surface Mine permit will allow Coal-Mac, a subsidiary of coal giant Arch coal, to mine through more than 2 miles of streams that are already suffering dangerous levels of pollution from surface mining. Extensive mountaintop removal mining and the subsequent environmental and water quality damage have already ravaged Logan County W.Va., which is the location of the infamous Spruce mine.

Moving forward, it is clear that the EPA cannot end mountaintop removal coal mining pollution without abolishing mountaintop removal all together.

The Pine Creek permit is currently awaiting approval from the Army Corps of Engineers.

5 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Carrie Foster says:

    They should stop mountain top removal altogether…I is an atrocious way to mine for coal…We should energize for clean energy such as wind power….

  2. Patrick says:

    We need fewer regulators, and more Regulators:
    http://twitpic.com/214r7k

  3. Daniel Cobb says:

    The EPA’s actions on the Pine Creek Permit would appear to support and permit the company’s violation of the Clean Water Act. This is a terrible development from President Obama’s new EPA, and bodes ill for all of us who expected and hoped fervently that a new day had dawned, where compliance with existing laws, respect for our environment, and respect for citizens rights to safe water would finally bring sanity to this process. Tragically, it appears that the change we had hoped for is not with this administration. The most polluting industry on the planet wins again (the oil disaster in the Gulf not withstanding).

  4. I couldn’t agree with all of the above comments. Was HORRIFIED and in a state of DISBELIEF when I read the news, in fact reread to make sure of the content. They should read “Appalachian Voices.” They should view Bill Moyers’ documentary about the heart-wrenching reality of the health catastrophes that result from this. (Never mind the aesthetics.) Are they aware of the very viable “blueprint” for wind power that was rejected by one of the governors in that area? Why support that governor and go back to the 19th century? I thought Obama promised to bring change. (Tourism opportunities might be another idea for economic growth.)

  5. Lindsey says:

    We should stop the degradation of everything! In the Gulf, our water is being polluted by oil. Up north, our water and air is being polluted by coal. When will people start to understand that there are other means of energy that won’t pollute anything? I mean, have you ever heard of a wind spill before? I think not. The fact is, major companies are already starting to utilize renewable energy. According to Renewable Power News, Google recently decided to purchase wind power for the next two decades to provide clean energy to its data centers. If companies like Google are getting on the clean energy band wagon, then maybe the rest of the world isn’t too far behind.

    http://www.renewablepowernews.com/archives/1604

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