Coal Tattoo

EPA taking closer look at Coal River Mountain mining

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An interesting development just in concerning Massey Energy’s Bee Tree Mine, the Southern West Virginia operation where environmentalists had hoped to put a wind energy facility instead of a mountaintop removal job.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials are investigating the Bee Tree site, examining Massey’s operation there without first obtaining a “dredge-and-fill” permit under Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act.

Yesterday, EPA regional officials in Philadelphia sent this letter to Massey’s Marfork Coal Co. subsidiary, seeking a long list of information about the Bee Tree operations.

Recall that Massey made a change in its surface mining permit from the state that the company apparently believed allowed it to — at least at this point — not need a 404 permit that could face EPA scrutiny before it would be approved by the federal Army Corps of Engineers. Massey had applied for a 404 permit, but then withdrew that application.

According to the new EPA letter, federal officials visited the site earlier this month and now are concerned that the site does need a 404 permit. The letter cautions Massey:

The activities underway at the site do not appear to have independent utility from the proposed mining project that is the subject of the Section 404 permit application. EPA is concerned that Marfork Coal Company may be committing signficant resources and conducting operations in reliance on a Section 404 permit that has not been issued. The Corps has not yet made a determination of jurisdictional waters and we have some concern that ongoing activities at the site could impact such waters if sufficient precautions are not exercised.

Updated:  Massey General Counsel Shane Harvey tells me the company has received EPA’s letter and is reviewing it.