EPA Halts Largest Mountaintop Removal Coal Mine in West Virginia


Another active mountaintop removal mine in West Virginia, photo: Jake Wellington/Creative Commons

Some great news for opponents of mountaintop removal coal mining: This morning the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it has vetoed a disposal permit at West Virginia's largest mountaintop removal operation, Mingo-Logan Coal Company's Spruce No. 1 mine. The proposed permit for the mine has been held up in the courts since the 1990s.

In halting the permit the EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Peter Silva said, "The proposed Spruce No. 1 mine would use destructive and unsustainable mining practices that jeopardize the health of Appalachian communities and clean water on which they depend."Silva added, "Coal and coal mining are part of our nation's energy future and EPA has worked with companies to design mining operations that adequately protect our nation's waters. We have a responsibility under the law to protect water quality and safeguard the people who rely on clean water."

Plenty of environmentalists will no doubt disagree that coal and coal mining should be part of the US' energy future, or at least for how much longer they are part of the nation's energy mix, but it's encouraging news nevertheless.

Mine Operators Could Not Develop Plan That Wouldn't Harm Environment
The decision comes after a year's worth of discussions with Mingo-Logan failed to find a way that would lead to a "significant decrease in impacts to the environment and Appalachian communities." As it now stands, the mine cannot dispose of waste into nearby streams "unless the company identifies an alternative mining design that would avoid irreversible damage to water quality and meets the requirements of the law."

Million of Cubic Yards of Waste Would've Permanently Damaged Streams
According to EPA's calculations, if it had been approved Spruce No. 1 would have disposed of 110 million cubic yards of coal mine waste into streams, burying more than six miles of them with millions of tons of mining waste resulting from destroying more than 2,200 acres of mountain and forest. As a result unhealthy levels of salinity and toxic levels of selenium would have resulted, compromising water quality and causing permanent damage to ecosystems and steams in the watershed downstream from the activity.

As for the usual praise and scorn on the EPA ruling from proponents and opponents of MTR, check out this account: West Virginia Gazette
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More on Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining:
Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining Stream Damage Could Take 1,000 Years to Fix
EPA Approves One New Mountaintop Removal Coal Mine, Finds 'Path Forward' for Second
EPA Data Shows Streams Near Mountaintop Removal Coal Mines Toxic

Tags: Coal | EPA | United States

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