EPA: Blowing Big Coal’s Top on Mountaintop Coal Mining
If it were ever possible or even realistic to put the words Appalachia and victory in the same sentence, this might be one of those rare times: the Environmental Protection Agency's Region 3 Administrator Shawn Garvin has recommended the withdrawal of the mining permit for the nation's largest proposed mountaintop removal coal mine site, the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia.
If Garvin's decision, released in an 84-page report on Friday, becomes the final EPA say about Spruce No. 1, the mine's owner, Arch Coal, will be barred from disposing mining waste in the state's streams. This will effectively block operation of the mine.
A year ago the EPA determined that Spruce No. 1 "raised significant environmental and water quality concerns" and halted further action on the company's Clean Water permit process. A subsequent legal maneuver appeared to set the stage for EPA and Arch to work out their differences regarding Spruce No. 1 and for EPA to determine if a revised mining plan could be developed that would comply with the Clean Water Act.
But Garvin's report said the mine should be halted because "mitigation is not likely to offset anticipated impacts."
If allowed to proceed, Spruce No.1 would clear more than 2,200 acres of forest, bury more than seven miles of headwater streams, and contaminate the downstream water supply. In mountaintop coal removal, the tops of mountains are literally blasted away to get at the coal seams.