Saturday, January 15, 2011-Noel Brinkerhoff
For first time in its history, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rescinded a clean water permit for a coal mining operation, a move that is likely to provoke backlash from the industry.
The decision in effect kills the Spruce No. 1 Mine and puts a stop to the largest single mountaintop removal permit in West Virginia history. EPA officials decided the project would use destructive and unsustainable mining practices that jeopardized clean water sources for local communities.
Federal scientists determined that Spruce Mountain would have disposed of 110 million cubic yards of coal mine waste into streams; buried more than six miles of high-quality streams in one county; polluted downstream waters as a result of buried streams; and degraded area watersheds, thus killing wildlife and adversely impacting other species.
Officials with Arch Coal, the company behind the project, were “shocked and dismayed” by EPA’s ruling. “Absent court intervention, EPA’s final determination to veto the Spruce permit blocks an additional $250 million investment and 250 well-paying American jobs,” Kim Link, a company spokeswoman, told The New York Times.
Arch Coal intends to fight the permit removal in federal court.