EPA says its new mining guidance ‘stands’

August 13, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

Here’s a statement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in response to the West Virginia DEP’s new mining water pollution guidance:

Earlier this year, at the request of members of Congress, mining companies, states and concerned citizens, EPA issued guidance to clarify the application of the Clean Water Act to mountaintop mining permits. That guidance, supported by extensive science and consistent with the law, has already protected local waters and the coalfield communities that use them.

We look forward to reviewing West Virginia’s new water quality guidance. In the meantime, EPA’s guidance stands and we will continue to use it to ensure that mining permits issued in West Virginia and other Appalachian states provide the protection required under federal law.

Our Gazette news story on the WVDEP policy is here.

5 Responses to “EPA says its new mining guidance ‘stands’”

  1. Monty says:

    “Meanwhile, EPA guidance stands.” I believe the current political phase in vogue for this is “pushback.”

    And while I am sure that the coal industry is glad that the DEP has issued its own thoughts on how water quality permits should be handled in the state of West Virginia, and the DEP made it very, very clear what it thought of the EPA’s efforts at same (not much), this two-paragraph response from the feds will, I hope, serve to remind Mr. Huffman and company in Charleston that they have to work with the EPA as opposed to ignoring them for years and then crying foul when the EPA does finally step in and do something. Unfortunately, it also may have heightened what was already an adversarial process and further bogged down real progress and resolution on this very important issue. I hope not.

  2. bo webb says:

    It is time for the United States Justice Dept. to zero in on state regulatory agencies and their Chiefs that are using taxpayer dollars in an attempt to usurp federal laws and regulations. No better example demands investigation than the WV DEP and its leader who has presented misinformation to the United States Congress and continues to collude with the coal industry, acting as their agent, in total disregard of the health and environmental concerns of The People of which his agency was created to protect.

  3. Vernon says:

    Which “local waters” has the EPA guidance protected? If they mean Pine Creek, I don’t see how burying over 2 miles of stream protects it.

  4. ChipBlankenship says:

    At first reading, West Virginia’s Narrative Standards Permitting Guidance appeared to be a step in the right direction to incorporate biological testing procedures in the permitting process. However, on the second reading, I saw some major flaws. For instance, the use of Ceriodaphnia dubia as the “most sensitive available surrogate organism for chronic toxicity testing of effluents” is outdated. It is well-known among regional biologists at the collegiate, state, and federal level that this particular organism is a very poor surrogate for organisms typically found in Appalachian headwater streams where mountain-top removal takes place. Indeed, Ceriodaphnia dubia is never found in undisturbed headwater streams, preferring more stillwater environments such as ponds and lakes. Why did the agency choose to use this particular organism from the EPA’s 1991 Technical Support Document for Water Quality-based Toxics Control even though the EPA recognizes the document is outdated and the organism is a poor surrogate for organisms in Appalachian headwater streams? It seems the DEP wants to have its cake and eat it too. For, while it cherry picks from outdated EPA guidance documents, it also trivializes EPA’s recent findings that conductivity has a higher negative correlation with biological indices (like WVSCI and GLIMPSS) than do other water quality parameters such as iron and aluminum (see the arguments in the bottom paragraph on page 2 of the Narrative Standards Guidance Justification document). The Justification document judges conductivity an “overbroad, generic criterion,” while touting the WET procedure’s use of a pond organism (Ceriodaphnia dubia) as surrogate for headwater stream organisms as “appropriate.”

    Both of the documents, but particularly the Justification document, seem to have been compiled by persons who don’t fully understand biological indices derived from empirical data. I wonder if Pat Campbell’s shop signed off on these documents, or if the documents were compiled by DEP staff with less scientific expertise and more attuned to the coal industry’s and Governor Manchin’s mantra. How about it Ken, do you think you could get an interview with a DEP scientist (not a program manager) close to this issue?

  5. bugman160 says:

    I noticed that there was a paper in with the many documents and comments involving the permit guidance that detailed the use of Isonychia bicolor in WET testing. At best, this could be an indicator that Ceriodaphnia dubia may not be used. At worst, it is at least an indication that it is on the minds of the biologists that Ceriodaphnia is not the best.

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