The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday proposed its first Clean Water Act veto ever for a previously permitted mountaintop removal project, “the largest mountaintop-removal permit in West Virginia history.” The veto would reverse a permit granted in 2007 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to Arch Coal to dig a 2,278-acre coal stripmine and fill six valleys and 43,000 linear feet of streams with the toxic debris. Based on the “unequivocal” evidence that the damage from mountaintop mining is irreversible, the EPA is finally enforcing the Clean Water Act to protect West Virginia’s residents:
Coal, and coal mining, is part of our nation’s energy future, and for that reason EPA has made repeated efforts to foster dialogue and find a responsible path forward. But we must prevent the significant and irreversible damage that comes from mining pollution — and the damage from this project would be irreversible. This recommendation is consistent with our broader Clean Water Act efforts in Central Appalachia. EPA has a duty under the law to protect water quality and safeguard the people who rely on these waters for drinking, fishing and swimming.
The EPA began the process to halt this permit more than a year ago. Although this veto will be finalized after a sixty-day comment period, many other projects continue. Coalfield residents are putting their lives on the line to stop mountaintop removal projects in Appalachia, which Barack Obama called an “environmental disaster.”