If you missed it in today’s Gazette, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a tenative agreement with Patriot Coal’s Hobet Mining subsidiary that could protect hundreds of United Mine Worker of America jobs at the sprawling Hobet 21 mountaintop removal complex along the Boone-Lincoln county line in Southern West Virginia.
Randy Huffman, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, told me he learned of this “agreement in principle” during a meeting Thursday in Charleston with EPA officials from the federal agency’s regional office in Philadelphia.
As my story mentioned, details are sketchy, but Huffman said the agreement appears to cut the amount of stream being impacted by mining in half.
Huffman described his meeting with EPA as “good and informative” and said:
I think EPA is starting to get a better handle on what they want. It’s not a wholesale attempt to shut down coal mining.
I’ve written before about the situation at Hobet 21, where Patriot Coal has been seeking approval of a permit for its “Hobet 45” extension of one of the largest mountaintop removal complexes in Central Appalachia.
The EPA-Patriot deal was revealed at the same time that EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson was defending her agency’s actions on mountaintop removal to West Virginia members of Congress during a hearing in Washington. Among other things, Jackson said EPA is determined to ensure that mine operators do everything possible to minimize the impacts of large-scale surface coal mining in Appalachia:
What we’re seeing with the science here is that as these watersheds have more and more valley fills in them, frankly, we see water quality impacts. We believe that over time that is going to be a larger problem, not a smaller problem. What really has to happen is rolling up the sleeves to minimize in these instances.
Here’s a clip of Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito grilling Jackson: