Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Judge Gives EPA More Time on Coal Mine Permit Review

U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers granted a Department of Justice request on Thursday that gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency more time to decide if it will veto Arch Coal Inc.'s Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County, the largest mountaintop removal mining permit in West Virginia history. Chambers issued a stay until March 26, saying the move would give EPA more time to decide if it would overturn the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to approve a Clean Water Act permit for the mine. Arch Coal's Mingo Logan subsidiary has been able to continue limited mining operations while EPA reviews the corps' permit approval and considers whether to veto it.

Under the Clean Water Act, the Corps generally processes "dredge-and-fill" permits that allow coal companies to bury streams with waste rock and dirt. But Congress gave EPA broad authority to overrule the Corps if it believes serious water-quality damage could be avoided.

The Spruce Mine was proposed as a 3,113-acre mine that would bury more than 10 miles of streams near Blair. Arch Coal had proposed the operation as a continuation of its Dal-Tex mountaintop removal operation. (Charles Gazette, 3/18/10, Life in Small Bites Environment Blog)

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