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Spruce Mine Targeted By EPA Veto Recommendation


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15 October 2010, 11:26 AM
Regional administrator asks for revocation of mine's permit

Today signals a historic and hugely positive step taken by the EPA to protect the people of Appalachia, who have suffered the harmful and grave consequences of mountaintop removal mining for too long.

The news, just released, is that EPA Region III Administrator Shawn Garvin is recommending a veto of the permit for Spruce No. 1 Mine. Read here for background on the EPA's historic decisionmaking around the Spruce No. 1 Mine. Garvin's recommendation is to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who ultimately must make the decision.

What this means is that after years of watching their streams buried and waters contaminated by mountaintop removal mining, there is hope for the health and well-being of the people of Appalachia.

Here is part of Garvin's letter :

Based on the foregoing analysis and upon consideration of the public comments received in response to Region Ill's proposed detennination, Region III believes that discharges of dredged and/or fill material to Pigeonroost Branch and Oldhouse Branch for the purpose of constructing the Spruce No.1 Surface Mine as currently authorized by DA Pennit would likely have unacceptable adverse effects on wildlife.

For this reason, it is the recommendation of the Regional Administrator that the specification embodied in DA Pennit No. 199800436-3 (Section 10: Coal River) of Pigeonroost Branch and Oldhouse Branch as disposal sites for discharges of dredged and/or fill material for construction of the Spruce No. 1 Surface Mine be withdrawn.
 

Garvin said the 50,000 public comments received as a part of this process helped to inform his decision, in addition to the science and analysis conducted by his office.

To be clear, this recommendation alone does not determine the outcome of the permit for the Spruce mine. It is a step along the way -- and one that must be reinforced by a full veto of the permit by Jackson. The EPA has 60-120 days to make a final decision.

In this time, we must make it clear to the EPA and to Jackson that a full veto of the largest proposed mine in Appalachia is absolutely necessary. This veto won't solve the problems of mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia and it won't guarantee that the people of the region will have full protection of the Clean Water Act, but it is a step in the right direction.

My colleague Joan Mulhern, Earthjustice Senior Legislative Representative, had strong words a bit ago on this recommendation that I believe cut to the heart of what's at stake here: 

We applaud the EPA and Regional Administrator Garvin for taking this important step toward a final veto.  Congress gave EPA oversight of these permits for a reason: it is the agency’s job to make sure waters are protected to the full extent of the law.  This step honors that legal – and we believe moral – responsibility.  We hope Administrator Jackson will follow this recommendation and veto the unacceptable permit for the Spruce Mine.

For too long, mountaintop removal mining has made Appalachia into a national sacrifice zone for the polluting dirty energy industry. This practice –  which obliterates mountains, buries streams, and harms water supplies – goes against both science and the law. This national sacrifice of Appalachia must end. The Spruce No. 1 Mine permit must be fully vetoed, and the EPA must follow that with a strong policy that honors the Clean Water Act and finally ends mountaintop removal mining.

 

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I totally agree, we need the deep mines until such time that we can replace our country-driven appetite with clean energy technology. To continue this massive destruction of our mountains, and streams, then spinning the tale that the coal industry is reseeding grass and replacing with hardwood trees is propaganda! They can plant all the hardwoods they want but without the rich subsoil they will not grow for any length of time, except for a photo "op".

Until the time, in the hopefully very near future, that filthy fossil fuels are replaced by cleaner forms of energy we will continue to need coal to feed our voracious appetite for energy. What we don't need is to continue destroying our mountains and water sheds by using surface mining. We should at a very minimum strictly enforce all rules under the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. This starts by making brave decisions on currently operating and proposed surface mines. I applaud Mr. Garvin's recommendation to block Spruce #1. We need a few hundred more such decisions. These are decisions that should have been made 50 years ago.

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