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EPA involvement in strip mine permits - two perspectives

Statement from Energy and Environment Secretary Len Peters regarding EPA final guidance on Appalachian surface coal mining

FRANKFORT, Ky. – (July 21, 2011) – “We’ve been expecting the release of a final guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency regarding coal mine permitting in the Appalachian region, and we will be reviewing this document thoroughly. Our concern, however, is that the EPA will continue to use ‘guidance’ rather than a legal administrative ‘rule’ as a means to object to permits that are legal and in accordance with existing Clean Water Act requirements.

The EPA has already overstepped its authority and used its interim guidance to object to legal permits within Kentucky and other states. I am not optimistic that release of this final guidance will lead to a different outcome. The only realistic solution is for the EPA to follow proper administrative protocols, protocols which allow for legitimate public input and appropriate judicial review.”

Sierra Club counsel Tom Fitzgerald reacted to Secretary Peters with this statement:

"EPA's final guidance provides important clarification of the agency's expectation that state's issuing discharge permits will no longer ignore the impacts of dissolved sulfates, carbonates and chlorides on the health of headwater streams, and that the requirements of Section 404 to avoid, minimize, and mitigate for impacts of filling headwater streams apply to coal wastes and spoil just as they do to every other industry.
The strip mining practices of the industry in the Appalachian coalfields have fallen far short of what Congress intended some 34 years ago. The EPA guidance places the states and the coal industry on notice that the narrative water quality protections that have been in state regulations for decades, yet have been honored in the breach, can no longer be ignored.

Contrary to the beliefs of the current Cabinet Secretary, the obligation to control adverse aquatic and instream impacts from sulfates, chlorides, and carbonates associated with coal mining discharges is not a new obligation, and EPA is well within its authority to require, at long last, that the state require the data and impose the standards needed to meet that long-standing obligation."

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