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Committee Examines EPA Handling of West Virginia Mine Permit

Washington, DC
Friday, June 1, 2012

A House Natural Resources Subcommittee looks at the E.P.A.’s efforts to halt a previously approved coal mining project in Logan County, West Virginia. The agency says the project will jeopardize the health of Appalachian communities and pollute its waters. In March of this year, a U.S. District Court Judge rebuked the E.P.A.’s efforts, saying the agency was overstepping its authority and using “magical thinking” to do so. The Obama administration is now appealing that decision.

In January 2011, the EPA revoked a permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, citing provisions of the Clean Water Act that allow it to reject previously issued permits if a project threatens permanent damage to communities and water supplies. Under the Spruce Mine permit, operator Mingo Logan Coal Company would have buried over six miles of streams in Logan County, West Virginia.

In March 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson rejected the EPA's decision, declaring that the agency overstepped it's authority. In May, the EPA announced that it would appeal the judge's decision.

Opponents of mountaintop removal mining rallied around the EPA's decision to appeal. Environmental groups, including Earthjustice and the Sierra Club, issued a statement saying they were "heartened" by the agency's commitment to enforce the Clean Water Act.

Mine supporters claim that the EPA is systematically targeting West Virginia's mining industry. They also allege that EPA policies are threatening American industries, from manufacturing and home construction to farming, by creating uncertainty over the clean water permit process.

Witnesses at today's hearing include: State Senator Art Kirkedoll, West Virginia; Ms. Karen Harbert , President & CEO, Institute for 21st Century Energy, US Chamber of Commerce; Mr. Ross Eisenberg, National Association of Manufacturers, VP, Energy and Resources Policy; and Ms. Maria Gunnoe, Boone Co WV Organizer, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

Updated: Friday, June 29, 2012 at 11:15am (ET)

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