EPA Takes Historic Step Toward Stopping Mega Mountaintop Removal Mine Site

Agency Moves to Stop Waste Dump from Spruce Mine in West Virginia

WASHINGTON (October 15, 2010) – The Spruce No. 1 mine in West Virginia will be prohibited from disposing its mining waste in streams in the state if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency carries through with its regional office’s recommendation and vetoes the mine’s permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.

In a decision released today, the EPA regional office that oversees the implementation of the Clean Water Act in West Virginia recommended that the agency exercise its authority under that Act to prohibit the Spruce No. 1 mine from disposing mining waste into streams. If finalized, it will demonstrate EPA’s commitment to more vigorously oversee the devastating practice of mountaintop removal in Appalachia.

On March 26, EPA proposed to withdraw or restrict the use of a number of streams as waste dumps associated with the mountaintop removal mine and valley fills at the Spruce No. 1 site. EPA raised concerns about the scale, water quality and wildlife impacts, environmental justice implications, and cumulative impact of the Spruce mine combined with other mining activity in the area.  EPA received thousands of public comments and held a hearing in West Virginia, before it issued its recommendation today.

The following is a statement from Jon Devine, a senior attorney in the Water Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“The Environmental Protection Agency has embraced science and given hope to Appalachian communities under siege by mountaintop removal mining.   The science shows that mountaintop removal coal mining causes harm to irreplaceable resources that cannot be minimized to an acceptable degree.  It is without question that the EPA has done the right thing with regard to the Spruce mine.  But more needs to be done -- mine waste dumps in Appalachian streams must stop. The agency needs to apply the same logic it has used in evaluating the Spruce mine to all other pending mountaintop removal proposals and must reform its policies to permanently protect Appalachian communities from similar projects.”