CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday it planned to use its authority for the first time to revoke a previously issued permit for a West Virginia surface mine.
Acting EPA Regional Administrator William Early said in a letter sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Huntington district that the agency is “taking this unusual step in response to our very serious concerns” that the project could violate the Clean Water Act.
According to the EPA, the agency has never used its authority to review a previously permitted project since Congress enacted the Clean Water Act in 1972.
The permit was issued in 2007 for Mingo Logan Coal’s Spruce No. 1 mine, which is owned by St. Louis-based Arch Coal Inc.
It would allow the company to fill valleys at the site with material removed to expose coal, a practice widely opposed by environmentalists.
The EPA’s unprecedented move “reflects the magnitude and scale of anticipated direct, indirect, and cumulative adverse environmental impacts associated with this mountaintop removal mining operation,” Early wrote.
The project would be the largest authorized mountaintop removal operation in Appalachia and it would occur in a watershed where the EPA says many streams have been affected by previous mining.
Company officials said in a statement they were “shocked” by the action against the permit, saying it was “the most carefully scrutinized and fully considered mine permit in West Virginia’s history,” taking almost 10 years.
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