Thursday, January 13, 2011

EPA Blocks New Mountaintop Coal Mine

From Mother Jones:

The Environmental Protection Agency has dealt a death blow to a proposed plan to dump strip mining waste in West Virginia, making what could prove to be a landmark move against mountaintop removal coal mining. Agency officials said Thursday that has revoked a Clean Water Act permit for the controversial Spruce No. 1 coal mine, a focal point for years in the battle between environmentalists and the coal industry. The agency concluded that allowing the mine's owners to dump waste into a nearby waterway would cause "irreversible damage" to water and the environment in the surrounding region.

"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," EPA's assistant administrator for water, Peter Silva, said in a statement. The agency said that, after more than a year of discussions with Mingo-Logan Coal Company, the company "failed to produce an agreement that would lead to a significant decrease in impacts to the environment and Appalachian communities."

As originally proposed, this would have been the biggest coal mine in American history, so this is no small project. "Mountaintop removal" coal mining depends on dumping the waste into surrounding valleys, obliterating the stream headwaters and replacing them with heaps of rock that leach acid into streams further downhill. If this is illegal under the Clean Water Act, that will be a huge blow to coal mining in West Virginia.

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