By Jeff Biggers
Jan 13, 2011
It's been a long time coming. Now it's final. Lisa Jackson and the EPA have gone to the mountaintop and announced their veto of the largest mountaintop removal mining permit in Appalachia.
"This ushers in a new era of civility in the coalfields," said long-time coalfields justice leader Bo Webb. He added: "I think Judy Bonds just sent us all a little smile," referring to the recent passing of the "godmother" of the anti-mountaintop removal movement.
Invoking the rule of law and science in the central Appalachian coalfields, the EPA just announced its long awaited and extensively researched decision today to veto the 2,300-acre mountaintop removal mining permit at the Spruce No. 1 Mine in West Virginia. Basing their ruling on 404 (c) of the Clean Water Act, the EPA concluded that the proposed mine would have "unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas (including spawning and breeding areas), wildlife, or recreational areas."
This final determination overrules the Army Corps of Engineer's earlier approval of the Logan County mine.
In addition, the EPA noted:
The project, as permitted, will bury 6.6 miles of Pigeonroost Branch, Oldhouse Branch, and their tributaries under excess spoil generated by surface coal mining operations. These streams represent some of the last remaining least-disturbed, high quality stream and riparian resources within the Headwaters Spruce Fork sub-watershed and the Coal River sub-basin and contain important wildlife resources and habitat. The quality of these streams is comparable to a West Virginia-designated reference site, and the macroinvertebrate communities found in these streams, which are used as an indicator of quality, rank extremely high in comparison to other streams throughout the Central Appalachia ecoregion and the state of West Virginia. These streams perform critical hydrologic and biological functions, support diverse and productive biological communities, contribute to prevention of further degradation of downstream waters, and play an important role within the context of the overall Headwaters Spruce Fork subwatershed and Coal River sub-basin.