We breathe a huge sigh of relief today and we thank the EPA and the Obama Administration for enforcing the Clean Water Act. We are so pleased that this historic veto of the Spruce No. 1 Mine permit halts the destruction of Pigeon Roost Hollow.
Spruce No. 1 is the only individual permit to have undergone a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The science completely validates what we have been saying for more than a decade: These types of mining operations are destroying our streams and forests and nearby residents’ health, and even driving entire communities to extinction. This type of steep slope coal mining is destroying our cultural heritage and our future.
We will continue our work to halt other illegal permits, both in-progress and pending. These other permits should also be subject to an EIS.
W.Va. Senator Joe Manchin said:
Today’s EPA decision is not just fundamentally wrong, it is an unprecedented act by the federal government that will cost our state and our nation even more jobs during the worst recession in this country’s history.
While the EPA decision hurts West Virginia today, it has negative ramifications for every state in our nation, and I strongly urge every Senator and every Member of Congress to voice their opposition.
The National Mining Association said:
EPA’s veto of an existing, valid permit for the Spruce No. 1 mine threatens the certainty of all Section 404 permits—weakening the trust U.S. businesses and workers need to make investments and secure jobs. The Spruce permit was issued after a robust 10-year review, including an exhaustive Environmental Impact Statement. EPA participated fully in the comprehensive permitting process, and the project has abided by every permit requirement.
EPA has taken this unprecedented action—never before contemplated in the nearly 40 years since the enactment of the Clean Water Act—at a time of great economic uncertainty. NMA urges the administration to step back from this unwarranted action and restore trust in the sanctity of lawfully granted and abided by permits and the jobs and economic activity they support.
Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., issued this statement:
The EPA’s unprecedented action today to veto a previously granted permit for the Spruce No. 1 Mine, though highly disconcerting, is far from surprising; Arch, the miners, the community, and I have been opposing this action for months. This veto reaches well beyond one coal mine; it threatens the economic security of every business that relies upon these Clean Water Act permits and that depends upon a fair and consistent permitting process While this Administration claims that it will not take similar action on any other permit, there is nothing to prevent it, or any future EPA, from reaching back to veto a previously granted permit now that this line has been crossed. The good news, if there is any, may be that by EPA’s finalizing this threatened action, the matter can now be taken before the courts, where I hope it will receive a thorough hearing and expeditious reversal.
Acting Gov. Tomblin issued this statement:
This news is devastating to the Southern Coal Fields and our entire state. The Spruce Number One permit was issued years ago after undergoing a comprehensive permitting process. It is hard to understand how the EPA at this late hour could take such a drastic action. We will continue with all efforts to get this decision reversed. Businesses need stability to succeed. I believe we can mine coal in an environmentally safe manner and I will continue to fight this decision.
So far, none of the politicians have mentioned the serious questions EPA raised about whether much or most of the coal at this site could have been mined by Arch Coal using less damaging mining plans. We discussed that possibility previously in two Coal Tattoo posts, here and here.
… The permittee has presented only limited alterations to the permitted project that it believes would likely result in environmental improvements. These proposals included additional compensatory mitigation projects, new mine construction practices, and increased water quality monitoring.
EPA maintains, however, that there appear to be additional practicable alternative project configurations and practices that would significantly reduce and/or avoid anticipated environmental and water quality impacts to Pigeonroost Branch and Oldhouse Branch.
… Mingo Logan Company has expressed a willingness to take some additional steps focusing on best management practices to reduce impacts, but has been consistently unwilling to consider needed actions to further reduce the 35,000 feet of direct impacts to valley fills on headwater streams or to phase valley fill construction in a manner that would allow for effective assessment of, and an adaptive management response to, adverse impacts to wildlife habitat and anticipated water quality problems.
Updated: Here’s a statement just issued by United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts —
It’s never a good day when hard-working people lose their jobs. The current and future job losses caused as a result of this decision will cause great difficulties for the Spruce mine workers, their families and their local communities.
“Although we do not represent the workers at the Spruce mine, every job is precious in the coalfields and we don’t like to see any lost. It is truly unfortunate that the EPA and the mine operator could not come to an agreement that would allow many of those jobs to be saved.
“As we move forward from this day, we must be about the work of creating good, safe coal jobs in the coalfield communities, not eliminating them. We believe that can be done within a reasonable regulatory framework and with a willingness on the part of government to share that goal.”