The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has just issued this statement to formally announce its deal to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to issue the Clean Water Act permit for the Hobet 45 mountaintop removal mine.EPA notes in its statement that:
As originally proposed, the Hobet 45 mine would have buried nearly six miles of headwater streams and contaminated downstream waters that now support healthy streamlife and are used by local residents for fishing and swimming.
Agency officials said that negotiations with the company resulted in permit changes that would:
— Reduce stream impacts by more than 16,000 linear feet;
— Require that contaminated mine drainage be directed away from surface waters;
— Ensure more effective compensation for environmental losses;
— Establish an adaptive management plan to further protect water quality; and
— Protect highly productive streams on the mine site.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said:
These are important examples of EPA’s work to bring clarity to this process. Our role, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, is to ensure that mining companies avoid environmental degradation and protect water quality so that Appalachian communities don’t have to choose between jobs and their health. Working closely with mining companies, our federal and state partners, and the public, our goal is to ensure Americans living in coal country are protected from environmental, health and economic damage.
EPA also released this letter to the Corps of Engineers outlining its action.
In the same statement, EPA announced that U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers had approved the government’s motion for more time to try to negotiate a deal on the Spruce Mine, the largest mountaintop removal permit in West Virginia history. The EPA statement included this background on the Spruce Mine:
The Spruce No. 1 mine is one of the largest mountaintop removal mines ever proposed in the Appalachian coalfields and would clear more than 2,200 acres of forestlands, bury more than seven miles of headwater streams, and further contaminate downstream waters already heavily impacted by previous mining activities. EPA is concerned that the Spruce No. 1 mine may:
Bury 7.5 miles of healthy headwater streams under 6 valley fills;
Contaminate downstream surface waters with pollutants from the mine including selenium, conductivity, iron, and aluminum – pollutants that would continue to drain into streams long after the mine is closed;
Cause additional harm to the Little Coal River watershed already significantly impacted by previous mining activities – 73 percent of streams are already impaired by mining;
Deforest 2,200 acres of mature, productive forestlands; and
Impact human health by contributing to water quality degradation and contaminating fish and wildlife.
The Spruce No. 1 Mine has been delayed for more than 10 years by citizen suits alleging the mine does not meet the requirements of federal laws. The current Clean Water Act permit for Spruce No. 1 has been held up in federal court since it was issued in 2007.