As always, the award winning Ken Ward Jr. breaks the story, posting an article on his blog even before the EPA finished their conference call. We’ve re-posted snipits below. Be sure to read his entire post on his blog, Coal Tattoo.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is releasing a bombshell: A major new guidance document that provides the coal industry and coal-state regulators with “clarity” regarding the permitting of mountaintop removal coal mining.
The biggest step included? EPA is warning that water pollution from these mining operations dangerously increases the electrical conductivity of streams — and setting up a much more rigorous mandate that coal operators and state mining regulators face up to this looming and long-ignored problem. But the new EPA guidance also addresses a host of other issues, from water quality monitoring to environmental justice, that are important to folks who are concerned about mountaintop removal.
As the new guidance document says:
It has been a high priority of this Administration — and EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson — to reduce the substantial environmental and human health consequences of surface coal mining in Appalachia, and minimize further impairment of already compromised watersheds.
As scientific evidence grows, EPA has a legal responsibility to address the environmental consequences of Appalachian surface coal mining.
Regarding the key issue of conductivity (a key measure of the presence of many harmful pollutants, such as chlorides, sulfides and dissolved solids), EPA cites the previous work of agency scientists who found that streams with conductivity of more than 500 microsiemens per centimeter were impaired.
But, EPA has also completed a draft of a new study by the agency’s Office of Research and Development that warns of impacts at even lower levels of conductivity of 300 microsiemens per centimeter.
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Well, the short version is that EPA may block new permits or demand significant changes in mining plans where mining proposals are projected to cause conductivity downstream to exceed 500.
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Links to a few of Ken Ward Jr’s awards: