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 below.

Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the National Resources Defense Council immediately hailed the decision.

A statement issued by Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune praised Garvin and the EPA for “staring down Big Coal and industry lobbyists and doing what’s right for Appalachians and hardworking Americans everywhere.

“While the coal industry has been cutting jobs and cutting corners in Appalachia, clean energy and efficiency investments there could generate almost 80,000 jobs by 2030 and save consumers more than $25 billion in energy costs.”

And Jon Devine, a senior NRDC attorney said the EPA “has embraced science and given hope to Appalachian communities under siege by mountaintop removal mining. The science shows that mountaintop removal coal mining causes harm to irreplaceable resources that cannot be minimized to an acceptable degree. It is without question that the EPA has done the right thing with regard to the Spruce mine. But more needs to be done — mine waste dumps in Appalachian streams must stop.”

Kim Link, a spokesperson for Arch Coal said in a statement that the company will “vigorously” challenge the Garvin recommendation.

A coal industry organization, the Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security, played the jobs card in decrying the decision. “This is another job destroying attack from the EPA on West Virginia and Appalachia,” said Bryan Brown, executive director of West Virginia FACES of Coal. “To veto an already approved permit, costing these communities hundreds of new, good paying jobs and millions in needed tax revenue is just absurd and more importantly illegal. Our elected leaders can’t let bureaucrats in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. dictate how West Virginians support their families. Taking these jobs and economic investment away from Logan County is a travesty. The mine was properly permitted. Let our people work.”

As the Sierra Club indicates there are much better ways of working and providing 250 jobs than blowing the tops off of mountains, destroying health and habitats, and contaminating streams.

writer, editor, reader and general good (ok mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by

5 responses

  1. I was born in McDowell Cty. W.VA, right next door to Logan cty. I have watched the ongoing destruction of the mtns., the polluting of the streams,the dead fish, the cloudy water coming out of faucets and the continuing arrogance of the mining companies. They live away from the polluted waters and the horrible sight and effects of a mountain being blasted into oblivion. It will take centuries to replace those mtns. and their proven benefits. Not to mention the value to the locals in looking up at a mtn. from their individual vantage points. Think of the wildlife displaced/killed (murdered?). There is a better way of mining the coal, but it’s ‘much too expensive’ to do differently. How have these coal companies gotten away with what other industries have paid high fines for and many would be in prison for? HELLO?! People get mad, jump up, write your senators and applaud the EPA for that region. Find their website and thank them, please. Also, go to this website and find the wonderful culture of Appalachia and…find the horrible pictures of mountaintop mining.
    website: Hillbilly Savants.org
    Thank you, do the right thing for our earth, the locals’ water and wildlife, flora and fauna and their land, their land.
    Clydean Stillwell Jackson

    1. Dear Clydean Stillwell Jackson:
      You don’t know the half of it. I sent some documents to your Hillbilly Savants email address.
      Coal contains: URANIUM, ARSENIC, LEAD, MERCURY, Antimony, Cobalt, Nickel, Copper, Selenium, Barium, Fluorine, Silver, Beryllium, Iron, Sulfur, Boron, Titanium, Cadmium, Magnesium, Thorium, Calcium, Manganese, Vanadium, Chlorine, Aluminum, Chromium, Molybdenum and Zinc. There is so much of these elements in coal that cinders and coal smoke are actually valuable ores. We should be able to get all the uranium and thorium we need to fuel nuclear power plants for centuries by using cinders and smoke as ore. Unburned Coal also contains BENZENE, THE CANCER CAUSER. We could get all of our uranium and thorium from coal ashes and cinders. The carbon content of coal ranges from 96% down to 25%, the remainder being rock of various kinds.
      If you are an underground coal miner, you may be in violation of the rules for radiation workers. The uranium decay chain includes the radioactive gas RADON, which you are breathing. Radon decays in about a day into polonium, the super-poison.

      Chinese industrial grade coal is sometimes stolen by peasants for cooking. The result is that the whole family dies of arsenic poisoning in days, not years because Chinese industrial grade coal contains large amounts of arsenic.

      Yes, that ARSENIC is getting into the air you breathe, the water you drink and the soil your food grows in. So are all of those other heavy metal poisons. Your health would be a lot better without coal. Benzene is also found in petroleum. If you have cancer, check for benzene in your past.
      See: http://www.ornl.gov/ORNLReview/rev26-34/text/coalmain.html
      for most of the above.

  2. What about my comment(s) need moderation? I did not promote anything except perhaps citizen participation. I have nothing to do with the Hillbilly Savants website: I found it by accident a year ago while looking up mtn. top coal mining. There are many, many different things to be found there; most of them are totally apolitical. Music, culture, history of the Appalachins. Check it out yourselves.
    Clydean Jackson

  3. Topless Mountains are OBSCENE! Thank you EPA for taking a stand to “Protect” the “Environment” against pro-exploitation interests. What good is the religion of a growing economy, when it is blatantly ecocidal? Another bumper sticker: “Unlimited Growth: Essential to Economists and Cancer. Here’s to a bright, clean future, y’all.

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