EPA taking closer look at Coal River Mountain mining

November 20, 2009 by Ken Ward Jr.

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.

22 Responses to “EPA taking closer look at Coal River Mountain mining”

  1. […] Blogs @ The Charleston Gazette – » EPA taking closer look at Coal River Mountain mining blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2009/11/20/epa-taking-closer-look-at-coal-river-mountain-mining – view page – cached 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… Read moreAn 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. Read less […]

  2. Lorelei Scarbro says:

    Thank God the coal field residents have someone who is listing. Massey revised this permit in 2007 to remove a valley fill. We said it was a significant revision revision which would allow citizens input. Tom Clark and others in the DEP said it was not significant and the OSM agreed. It is a shame we have to get outside of this state before people in power care about the suffering of the people who pay the true cost of coal.

  3. […] We’ve just learned that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sent a very legalistic lette…The letter follows up on an EPA site visit to Coal River Mountain earlier this month, and notes with concern that the company appears to be operating without the required permit under the Clean Water Act. It calls for Marfork to answer a series of tough questions about its operations within 30 days. […]

  4. STEVE says:

    JW are you talking about the timber, natural gas and oil travesties also because the 1600 +mile gas line from out west will destroy more than 13000 + acre’s and create untold access roads from Colorado into Ohio. Not to mention timber and oil destruction. 13000 acre’s is a lot more than the 2300 acre’s at the Sharples mine the EPA just approved to pull the permit. Walk the Walk.

  5. JDW says:

    I keep on reading about the “proposed” wind farm certain people propose to put on Coal Montain. Who owns the surface of Coal Mountain? I would think the owner of the land should have some input into what if anything is done with Coal Mountain. Are they advocating total disregard of property rights? While law limits what can and cannot be done even with private property, it is still primarily up to the landowner to determine what happens on Coal Mountain. The “proposed” wind farm appears more and more to be nothing more than a ploy or tactic used to oppose mining. Massey is a “for profit” corporation. If it is truly feasible to develop a viable wind farm on Coal Mountain, I am sure Massey would have already written that into its permit application as an approved post mining activity. I would suspect many of those proposing a wind farm have not closely examined exisiting sites. Otherwise they would quickly realize putting wind farms on a mountain ridge is very disruptive; with areas cleared for tower bases, access roads and utility service. These alterations are permanent, and the giant, unsightly, noisy, windmills become an unattrractive feature of the landscape! Surface mine disruption is temporary as mining firms are required to return sites to the approximate original contour, so I don’t think anyone will be reducing the height of Coal Mountain by 800 ft.

  6. Jim Welke says:

    I don’t advocate trashing long established communities, ecosystems, or species for the acquisition of resources we don’t need. That is what I consider a travesty.

    If we change the way we think we don’t have to change the way we live (with the likely exception of driving solo in 8000 lb vehicles). I do advocate efficiency, and distributed renewable sources of energy using proven, widely implemented, least cost technologies.

    Here’s an article from a reputable source that compares wind energy to nuclear (including land use), but it really makes the point that we don’t need big, centralized power plants at all. Read it if you are interested in a credible alternative to the way were doing things now: http://www.rmi.org/cms/Download.aspx?id=1550&file=2009-09_FourNuclearMyths.pdf

    and here’s the page it’s listed on: http://www.rmi.org/rmi/pid257

    Rocky Mountain Institute, and Amory Lovins, have been around a long time, and their methods are rigorous and well-documented. And they turn a profit practicing what they preach: boosting efficiency and installing distributed power for corporate clients.

    — Jim

  7. […] post:  Blogs @ The Charleston Gazette – » EPA taking closer look at Coal … By admin | category: mountain | tags: clean, clean-water, epa, goblirsch, letter-follows, […]

  8. […] Tweets about this great post on TwittLink.com […]

  9. Judy Bonds says:

    I can assure you all that we are serious about a wind farm on Coal River Mountain.
    I and other community members- have visited wind farms and we find them preferable to mountaintop removal. The wind turbine can come down when a better way to produce energy is perfected but mountains don’t grow back.
    The wind that comes out of the turbine is as clean as the wind that went into the turbine.
    Surface mining disruptions also consists of polluted water and bad health effects in communities living near and/or downstream of mining sites. A health study by Dr. Hendryx of WVU supports our claims.
    I might also point out that there has been litigation and complaints regarding that fact that the coal industry has not obeyed the law on Approximate Original Contour and SMCRA requirements. That is the problem, the laws are not being enforced on surface mining.
    I too believe in property rights. I think that a property owner has the right to conduct activities on his property as long as his activities does not interfere with other nearby property owners’ right to enjoy their property, does not damage others’ property, does not endanger their life, and the property owner can stop any off site damage that might hurt their/our family. So far during surface mining, we think the activities on the mining sites have harmed other people’s property, rights and health.

  10. Jessica Ennis says:

    Hopefully the EPA will do more than just “take a closer look.” Does this mean that MTR is okay just as long as the mining company has a 404 permit? If the EPA can’t take a harder stance on MTR, I think its legitimacy as a government organization is compromised.

  11. bo webb says:

    If we as a society are at the point of being willing to accept the annihilation of our great Appalachian mountains for a lump of coal that is poisoning our children then we are in deep trouble. We are lost, finished as a civil society and on the road to our end. MTR has to stop. It is an insane proposition.
    Coal River Mountain stands as a symbol of choice for WV, and America. Today, it is abundant with clean water, fresh air; an incubator of life and a wind resource that can be harnessed to power thousands of WV homes and help lead America to real energy independence. To stand idly by and not lift a finger to prevent it from being turned into a tomb of death is a sin. People like Don Blankenship and Joe Manchin need to look into their souls, if they can find them, and decide if they want to take their insatiable greed at all cost to humanity to their death beds with them or do they want to begin to use their power to help shape and sustain a better world.

  12. rcj112 says:

    Bo webb hit the nail on the head, but sadly, Manchin & Blankenship have no souls. Only b0ttomless pits in their pockets.

  13. […] to The Charleston Gazette, the EPA is taking a closer look at Massey Energy’s mountaintop removal project at Coal River […]

  14. ML says:

    JDW: Considering that Massey wants to do Mountaintop Removal Mining at Coal River Mountain, there will be no mountain left to put a wind farm on as a post-mining activity.

    As for the permant damages you cite for road building, this is far less damaging than generations of acid mine drainage, massive changes to the topography or valley fills changing the natural flow of creeks and streams.

  15. adwgeo says:

    Wow!! So, ‘they’re” going to put up windmills, then take them back down. Okay, let’s do that.

  16. […] EPA taking closer look at Coal River Mountain mining A comment on EPA’s action from Lorelei Scarbro: Thank God the coalfield residents have […]

  17. coal is great says:

    Bo Webb said,” Coal River mt is abundent with clean water and fresh air. ” Mining has been going on there for a long time. So, if this is the case, why are you folks trying to put coal out of buisness? Sounds to me like ,again , you folks are wrong.

  18. bo webb says:

    coal is great. you are wrong, mining has not gone on Coal River Mountain long. A small portion of it was contoured years back, but the mountain stand intact today, right now. Wake up, coal is going out of business. It’s killing people. We’ve burned it for a long time and the results from that are having a great health effect on people. Other cleaner forms of energy are now being used more and more. So, I’m not trying to put coal out of business. It is putting itself out of business. Get a grip and get on Manchin and your state a federal representatives to get some NEW JOBS in here. We need to stop being manipulated by the coal industry. They are only protecting their own interest, not yours or mine.

  19. Casey says:

    It is not the government’s role to provide new jobs. It is their role to provide the right environment to encourage business and commence. WV ranks poorly versus other states in this regard. States that rank high in business climate also rank high in citizen well- being and vice versa.

    Coal is not the problem, it just happens to be one business that can survive in WV and therefore gets a lot of blame (and that’s only because it is here). There is plenty of coal left in the state and it is extremely important, still, to our standard of living. It is just like everything else that we use and need in life, it’s either grown or it’s mined. These necessities can be grown and mined here in WV & the U.S. or overseas where the laws are less stringent.

    Economics rule. I understand the concept of externalities and how coal plays a part. But we can’t just kill something that is economically needed unless we have economically viable answers otherwise the U.S. could become weak and vulnerable.

    To contradict my first statement, government must play a part in new developments that are extremely important and that private enterprise can not do by itself. Whether putting an end to coal and developing alternatives qualifies for this involvement is the subject of the debate. But these alternatives are not economically ready now so we really need coal and the men and women that mine it, and we don’t need scientists conspiring to distort data and suppressing opposing scientific viewpoints.

  20. bo webb says:

    Casey, You’re right. Government’s job is to create a climate that encourages business. This government (WV) was designed by the coal industry and continues to be controlled by the coal industry. Diversifying this states economy is not in their best interest. Other states have numerous clean renewable energy projects in the works. We have none. Coal is being used less and less. It is a declining industry that investors will soon drop. Natural gas development is going to put coal out of business. We’ll still use met coal, but coal jobs are going to be fewer and fewer. We need NEW JOBS. Seems to me that a Governor with vision could see what is around the corner, take leadership and invest in the future. Clean, green energy is the future. A wind farm on Coal River Mountain would be the perfect example of a choice decision to invest in the future, providing jobs through clean energy projects and help in leading America to real energy independence.

  21. […] federal Environmental Protection Agency is reportedly investigating whether Massey’s operations on Coal River Mountain have the necessary […]

  22. Chuck Nelson says:

    Right now they need to end MTR, and continue deep mining through the transition period.

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