EPA Gets Back in the Saddle on Mountaintop Mining Permits

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009 at 6:39 pm

Just a few weeks after the Army Corps of Engineers approved a controversial mountaintop mine in Kentucky without a peep from the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA has urged the Corps to revoke the permit for another enormous mountaintop project in Southwest Virginia, citing fears of “significant degradation” to nearby streams.

The Ison Rock Ridge mine, owned by Virginia-based A & G Coal, was previously approved under something called the “Nationwide 21″ permit, a generic review process intended to streamline the approval of mining applications across the country. In an April 3 letter to the Corps, however, the EPA warned that that generic review did little to prevent the operation from damaging the adjacent watershed, and that further study specific to the Ison Rock project should be performed.

EPA believes that further avoidance and minimization efforts are needed, that the proposed project may cause or contribute to an impairment of the aquatic life use in downstream receiving waters, and that the direct and cumulative impacts from this proposed as well as past and future mines will be persistent and permanent.

If allowed to proceed, the project would fill nine Appalachian valleys, burying roughly three miles of streams.

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