The EPA vs. the Army Corps (Again) « The Washington Independent
The Environmental Protection Agency last week quietly asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “to suspend, revoke or modify” the coal mining permit for the largest mountaintop removal operation in West Virginia, the Charleston Gazette reported today. In turn, the Army Corps has asked a federal judge for a 30-day stay to review the permit, setting off a legal skirmish between the two federal agencies at the front lines (at least in theory) of protecting the country’s waterways from the devastation of mountaintop mining.
Approved in 2007, the 2,278-acre Spruce Fork mine is designed to fill six Appalachian valleys with mining debris, burying more than 8.3 miles of mountain streams in the process. The EPA, citing “new information and circumstances,” says there’s a “likelihood” that the operation will pollute those streams in violation of state and federal law.
“We are concerned data were available and was not evaluated as part of the review for the 2007 permit which is directly relevant to the Corps determination of whether or not the project would comply with the requirements of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),” the EPA wrote.
Reading a bit between the lines, the letter seems to say that the “new information” is actually old information that both the Army Corps and the EPA chose to ignore during the Bush-era approval process. If that’s the case — that is, if these agencies ignored the law to benefit the coal industry at the expense of public safety — then more should happen than just a suspension of the Spruce Fork mine. Heads should roll, too.