Coal Mining Companies Put On Notice by EPA

Raises Concerns About Mountaintop Removal Impact on Waterways

WASHINGTON (March 24, 2009) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expressed serious concern today about the potential harmful impacts on waterways from mountaintop removal mining. The EPA sent two letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers focused on two surface coal mining operations in West Virginia and Kentucky. EPA also intends to review other requests for mining permits.

Following is statement by Jon Devine, Senior Attorney for the Water Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“The EPA is taking an overdue step in the right direction to clean up America's waterways. The Obama administration is taking firm action to reconsider the mining industry’s practice of dumping coal mining waste into America’s waterways, which is especially harmful to people in Appalachia. Well over a thousand miles of America’s streams, rivers and waterways have been damaged or destroyed by mountaintop removal mining, and it’s time for the industry to clean up its act.

“Today’s action shows that EPA, under Administrator Jackson, is willing to consider scientific evidence of harm downstream from mountaintop removal coal mines and valley fills. If the Corps follows EPA’s lead, it will be difficult to permit these operations.

“Unfortunately, EPA’s action falls short in at least one crucial aspect – the agency appears to be content to have the Corps continue to permit the disposal of mine waste in streams and other surface waters. The Bush administration created this scheme by adopting a policy loophole in 2002 which is fundamentally inconsistent with the principles that underlie the Clean Water Act. The EPA and the Corps should now move quickly to rescind the Bush waste rule.”