EPA Issues Historic Veto on Arch Coal’s Spruce Mine

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Spruce Mine in West VirginiaExcellent news this morning from Washington DC! Today, the EPA announced that they are vetoing the Clean Water Act permit for Arch Coal’s Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia.

This is a historic victory for the movement to end mountaintop removal mining. It’s the first time that the EPA has issued a veto on a project that had previously been permitted.

The Spruce mine is one of the largest mountaintop removal mines ever proposed in Central Appalachia, and would have resulted in the destruction of 2,278 acres of temperate rainforest and the burying of 7.5 miles of streams in the Spruce Fork sub-watershed.

Were this mine site expansion to go ahead, it would have destroyed beautiful and ecologically valuable Appalachian streams: Pigeonroost Branch, Oldhouse Branch, and their tributeries. The EPA has resisted enormous pressure from Arch Coal and the coal industry lobby in carrying out its responsibility to put the protection of our environment and the communities who depend on it ahead of corporate profits.

Our allies in West Virginia are celebrating the news today. Janet Keating from Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition said: “We are so pleased that this historic veto of the Spruce No. 1 Mine permit halts the destruction of Pigeon Roost Hollow…The science completely validates what we have been saying for more than a decade: These types of mining operations are destroying our streams and forests and nearby residents’ health, and even driving entire communities to extinction.”

The Cover of Downstream Strategies report on Spruce Mine's ecological impactsLast year we commissioned Downstream Strategies to produce a report  on the impacts of the Spruce mine. Report author Rory McIlmoil comments:

Today’s decision by the EPA is consistent with the conclusion we drew in our report, that the Spruce mine could not be approved without violating federal laws and regulations. The impacts to the environment and surrounding communities that would result from the proposed mine were studied by EPA and independent researchers in great detail, and all of the studies concluded that the proposed operation would result in unacceptable adverse impacts. Our report shows that had the EPA decided to approve the permit, their decision would have been in violation of the law and the agency’s own responsibilities.

Since the EPA began its scrutiny of Spruce mine in September 2009, RAN activists, friends and allies have kept up firm pressure on the agency to issue a veto. You sent Lisa Jackson almost 17,000 emails and made more than 500 direct phone calls urging her to veto Spruce Mine. And, last September, RAN DC activists dumped 1,000 lbs of Appalachian dirt on the front steps of the EPA Headquarters, with the message “EPA: Don’t let King Coal dump on Appalachia,” resulting in two arrests.

We have been in many conversations with the EPA headquarters and regional offices about stopping Spruce Mine, and with the banks that provide financing to Arch Coal. Today’s announcement proves that persistence pays and that citizen pressure can make a huge difference for our communities and environment.

Thank you and well done!

Want to join the fight to end mountaintop removal? Sign up for our Dirty Energy Rapid Responder list now!