Story by Sandra Diaz
In line with an interagency “memorandum of understanding,” the Environmental Protection Agency announced their recommendations on 79 valley fill permit applications associated with mountaintop removal coal mining. In a move that pleased environmentalists and coalfield residents in central and southern Appalachia, the EPA wants to further review all 79 permits for possible violations of the Clean Water Act.
EPA Regional offices were given 14 days to review the EPA Headquarters’ recommendations after which the list will be finalized. Any permits the EPA regional wants approved will be sent to the Army Corps of Engineers for final approval. If the regional offices agrees with the headquarters’ assessment, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers will enter an “enhanced coordination” process, where the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers will study each permit on a individual 60 day time frame.
Willa Mays, executive director for Appalachian Voices was delighted about the EPA’s announcement. “EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Army Corps’ Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Terrence “Rock” Salt have shown exceptional leadership. This is indeed good news especially paired with the fact that 156 members of the House of Representatives are now cosponsors of the Clean Water Protection Act.”
Reaction from the coalfields was mostly optimistic. Chuck Nelson, retired union coal miner from Glen Daniel, W.Va., and board member of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition said, “By recommending these permits be further reviewed, the EPA is allowing a temporary reprieve for the people of Appalachia. It appears the EPA is starting to take the concerns of coalfield residents into account when considering these permits.”