NEW YORK - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has put 79 proposed mountaintop coal-mine permits in Appalachian states up for further review, according to a statement released on Friday.
"Release of this preliminary list is the first step in a process to assure that the environmental concerns raised by the 79 permit applications are addressed and that permits issued are protective of water quality and affected ecosystems," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in the statement.
The EPA will work with the Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that permits for the mining will not unleash practices that would harm water supplies.
In mountaintop mining, companies blast the tops of mountains with dynamite to get to coal seams. Often the resulting ruble is pushed off the mountain into valleys below and can bury streams.
Environmentalists praised the EPA's move on Friday.
"By recommending these permits not be approved, the EPA and the Army Corps has demonstrated their intention to fulfill a promise to provide science-based oversight which will limit the devastating environmental impacts of mountaintop removal mining," Willa Mays, executive director for Appalachian Voices, said in a release.
In the next 15 days, the EPA will evaluate the preliminary list of projects slated for further review and transmit a final list to the Army Corps. Then environmental issues over particular permit applications will be addressed during a 60-day review process triggered when the Corps informs EPA that a particular permit is ready for discussion.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Walter Bagley)