EPA Recommends Denial of Water Permit for Disastrous Mountaintop Removal Mine in West Virginia

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 522-3681

EPA Recommends Denial of Water Permit for Disastrous Mountaintop Removal Mine in West Virginia

HUNTINGTON, W. Va. - In a blow to the largest mountaintop removal project ever proposed, a regional administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency has recommended denying the Clean Water Act permit for the controversial Spruce Mine in Logan County, W.V. If the agency's Office of Water follows that recommendation later this year, it will be the first time the agency has retroactively denied a mining permit. The proposed mountaintop removal mine would destroy 2,300 acres of forest and bury nearly seven miles of streams. The recommended veto is based on water pollution impacts including downstream fish kills.

"Although they've made a lot of noise about it, the EPA has yet to save a single mountaintop from the devastation of mountaintop removal. This is the agency's chance to walk their talk and prevent further loss of wildlife habitat and drinking water in a county that has already lost 15 percent of its land to surface coal mining," said Tierra Curry, Appalachia native and biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Local citizens have been fighting the Spruce Mine proposal since 1998 when the original project intended to bury more than 10 miles of streams and destroy more than 3,100 acres of forest. The EPA will now consult with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the mining company, and state officials over the future of the permit. The agency received 50,000 public comments on the proposal. The mining company, Arch Coal, is suing EPA over the delayed permit.

Although the EPA has increased scrutiny of surface coal mining permits in Appalachia, the agency has not yet stopped a project. In January, the EPA approved the delayed Clean Water Act permit for the Hobet 45 mine after the company agreed to bury three miles of stream instead of the planned six miles. In late June the agency, without publicly announcing the decision, approved the permit for the Pine Creek Mine that will destroy three miles of stream and 760 acres of hardwood forest.

Pollution from mountaintop removal mining has been found to cause deformities and reproductive failure in downstream wildlife and has been associated with cancer clusters in communities exposed to high levels of coal mining activity. Mountaintop-removal coal mining has already destroyed more than 500 mountains, more than 1 million acres of hardwood forest, and more than 2,000 miles of streams in Appalachia.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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