Greenwire reports that the Army Corps of Engineers reinstated a permit yesterday for a controversial Kentucky coal mining project hours after the EPA had publicly pledged to review pending mountaintop removal projects.
It would appear then that the Corps has little regard for its sister agency's concern -- let alone EPA's authority -- to scrutinize this controversial mining, which has leveled nearly 500 Appalachian peaks and buried streams under the rubble.
When questioned by reporters about its decision to reinstate the permit for the mountaintop mine in Leslie County, Kentucky, a spokesman for the Corps interpreted EPA's action as limited to two other controversial mines, one in West Virginia and another elsewhere in Kentucky. So while the Corps can claim to be following the letter of EPA's action, it is brazenly violating the spirit.
For the moment, EPA has yet to respond to the Corps' flagrant behavior -- not a good sign. Certainly, the EPA has the ultimate authority under the Clean Water Act to step in and determine whether the mining activity will damage water quality.
Mountaintop removal, by its nature, damages streams. After all, it involves detonating high explosives to shear off the peaks to access thin coal seams below. In the process, tons of rock, rubble and other mining waste is unceremoniously bulldozed over the mountain side to pollute and bury the valley streams below.
Now that EPA has finally -- and rightfully -- asserted its statutory and regulator right to review mountaintop mining permits, it would be irresponsible of the agency to back down to the reckless, rogue agency that is largely responsible for letting mountaintop removal flourish in Appalachia. The Corps must be stopped.