- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
The EPA on Friday, Sept. 11, 2009, announced that it has identified 79 proposed surface coal-mining projects in four Appalachian states for further, detailed reviews of their pending permits.
Forty-nine of the permits are for locations in Kentucky, 23 in West Virginia, six in Ohio and one in Tennessee.
Specifically, the agency is targeting so-called mountaintop mining methods. In many cases, this involves exploding high elevation areas and allowing the debris to collect in valleys that may have streams that flow through the area, in order to expose coal seams so that they are more easily harvested. Environmental groups have long called for this practice to be better controlled.
Earlier this year, the agency said it planned to increase its oversight of surface coal mining operations, responding to environmentalist concerns over the blasting practice. "Release of this preliminary list is the first step in a process to assure that the environmental concerns raised by the 79 permit applications are addressed and that permits issued are protective of water quality and affected ecosystems," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.
The extended reviews will be carried out under an enhanced coordination process between the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers developed under an interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on surface coal mining facilitated by the Council on Environmental Quality and signed by the EPA, the Corps, and the Department of Interior.
In the next 15 days, the EPA said it will be further evaluating the preliminary list of projects slated for further review and transmit a final list to the Corps. After that, issues of concern regarding particular permit applications will be addressed during a 60-day review process triggered when the Corps informs the EPA that a particular permit is ready for discussion.