This is a practice that is quite emotional for many people in America. There are thin seems of coal above mountaintops in Appalachia and the practice that is most cost efficient is to simply blow off the top, level it, remove that thin seam, and then all that rubble from the top of the mountain gets put into valleys and almost inevitably fills streams.
What we’re finding at EPA is that the process of filling the streams has a detrimental impact on water quality and as you might expect the more you fill, the more likely you’re going to see problems with water quality.
I’m really proud of the fact that EPA has stepped forward and said we’re going to review each and every one of these outstanding permits to try to minimize, if not end, any environmental degradation to the water. Because, after all, for EPA … EPA doesn’t regulate mining. We fight for clean water under the Clean Water Act. So our role is limited to ensuring that these projects if they’re approved do not have a detrimental impact on clean water. We’ll continue to do that.
I have promised Senator Byrd that we would get clarity of guidance out to those companies who have permits that are in the process. That will be happening in very short order.
I’m not sure where Administrator Jackson got the idea that some of these permits had been in litigation for “decades” … and I also thought her comment that EPA may seek to “end” any degradation of water quality, rather than minimize it, was interesting.