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Obama Administration Reverses Largest Appalachian Mountaintop Removal Permit in US History


In nearly four decades since the Clean Water Act was passed, the Environmental Protection Agency has never vetoed any mining permit retroactively. That changed this morning.

Word is just coming down via Coal Tattoo that the Obama administration EPA has just vetoed the largest single mountaintop removal permit in West Virginia history. The permit was initially awarded during the previous very fossil-friendly Bush administration, after a fractious decades-long court battle.

By retracting the Clean Water Air permit for Arch Coal’s 2,300-acre mine proposed for the Blair area of Logan County, West Virginia, the EPA is effectively suspending most major activity.

The decision comes after it reviewed more than 50,000 public comments and held a major public hearing in West Virginia, and is part of the Obama administration EPA crackdown on mountaintop removal.

EPA officials this morning were alerting West Virginia’s congressional delegation to their action, and undoubtedly preparing for a huge backlash from the mining industry and its friends among coalfield political leaders, including new “Democratic” Senator Joe Manchin, an EPA foe.

As the EPA faces a real battle this year with a new Tea Party House clutching the purse strings that control environmental decisions, and a more fossil-friendly Senate that could vote to reduce EPA power; it is a brave move – and the right one.

The EPA noted in its ruling that it has worked with companies to design mining operations that adequately protect our nation’s water, but that Arch Coal has refused to make any changes to its operations.

“EPA’s final determination on the Spruce Mine comes after discussions with the company spanning more than a year failed to produce an agreement that would lead to a significant decrease in impacts to the environment and Appalachian communities. The action prevents the mine from disposing the waste into streams unless the company identifies an alternative mining design that would avoid irreversible damage to water quality and meets the requirements of the law. Despite EPA’s willingness to consider alternatives, Mingo Logan did not offer any new proposed mining configurations in response to EPA’s Recommended Determination.”

The decision represents a huge win for Appalachian groups such as I Love Mountains which has been fighting an uphill battle for what should be a basic human right of drinkable water in the region.

Image: Ed McClanahan
Susan Kraemer@Twitter

 
 
 
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writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

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