Coal Tattoo

Showdown coming over Alpha permit?

In the wake of yesterday’s federal court ruling blocking part of the Obama administration’s efforts to reduce mountaintop removal coal-mining’s impacts, there’s another potential legal showing looming …

Regular readers may recall the flurry of legal activity this past spring over the Reylas Surface Mine permit issued to then-Massey Energy subsidiary Highland Mining Co.

After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the permit, environmental groups filed a quick legal challenge.  U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers scheduled hearings on the matter, but then the Corps of Engineers withdrew the permit for further review.

Now, I’ve learned this week that the Corps of Engineers reissued the permit late last month. Massey had described this particular permit — now controlled by Alpha Natural Resources — this way:

Massey said the 635-acre mine would eventually employ about 100 people for about six years, producing more than a million tons of coal a year. The company plans to create a 235-acre site with paved road and utilities that could later be used for temporary housing during flooding and other emergencies.

There don’t appear to have been any major changes in this permit to reduce its environmental impacts. But this new Corps of Engineers decision document does clear up the previously confusing question of exactly how much length of streams would be buried by the Logan County mine:

Instead of the original length of 12,510 feet listed in the original [public notice] and the 13,478 feet of impact in the [original decision document], a total of 13,378 feet of waters of the U.S. would be impacted by the activities described above.

For folks who aren’t keeping score at home, that’s about 2.5 miles of streams. Will environmental groups head back to court to try to block this permit? Stay tuned …