The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced today that it has suspended the use of a fast-track nationwide permit (Nationwide Permit 21) for mountaintop removal mining operations in the Appalachian region of six states. This announcement comes more than a year after a March 2009 U.S. District Court decision ruled these permits illegal.
The nationwide permits, created in 1982, gave a blanket authorization to mountaintop removal coal mines to dump their mining waste in streams and waterways. The District Court ruled that this overly generalized permitting process could not guarantee compliance with the Clean Water Act and that mining companies must apply for individual permits in order to be able to fill streams with mining waste.
The following statement is from Earthjustice senior legislative counsel Joan Mulhern:
“Using nationwide permits to rubber stamp the destruction of streams across hundreds of miles of Appalachia is an abomination.
“We are relieved that the Army Corps of Engineers is finally taking this permit off its books, in a move that is long overdue, but what the Corps really needs to do is change the Bush administration policy that allows the dumping of mining waste in streams and waterways until they are destroyed and buried completely.
“This joint Army Corps-Environmental Protection Agency rule wiped out 25 years of clean water protections. For the first time, the Bush-era rule officially allowed industrial and mining waste to be dumped in streams, opening the door for more mountaintop removal mining companies to fill streams with the waste from blowing off the tops of mountains to mine coal. This practice ravages habitats and harms communities. It is long past time for this rule to be overturned. We hope the Corps takes steps immediately to ensure that our streams and waterways are no longer used as dumping grounds for mining waste.”