EPA stunner: pulls permit for major, already-in-use coal mine in WVA

FYI just found this 45 page doc on WVA coal facts, from taxes paid, employment, production & more. WVA is No.2 in US coal production behind No. 1 Wyoming. WVA ships coal to 33 states & 23 countries and accounts for 50% of all US coal exports. 1/2 of the electricity in this country comes from coal. Page 20 on the document, page 18 according to the PDF.

Our government seems to know no bounds these days. In a stunning, but not surprising power-grab, and show of boldness, the EPA, specifically Chair Nancy Sutley of the Council on Environmental Quality, revoked the coal mining permit for Arch Coal’s Spruce Mine No. 1 in Logan County, West Virginia. The action happened on January 13 after 9 months of threats from the EPA that the mine would cause irreparable harm to the environment. Area businesses sent this letter to Ms. Sutley expressing opposition. Of keynote is the following observation:

If EPA is allowed to revoke this permit, every similarly valid Section 404 permit held by any entity — businesses, public works agencies and individual citizens — will be in increased regulatory limbo and potentially subject to the same unilateral, after-the-fact revocation. The implications could be staggering, reaching all areas of the U.S. economy including but not limited to the agriculture, home building, mining, transportation and energy sectors.

Arch Coal, which contributes 16% of America’s coal supply, had the project in the works for over a decade and received its permit in 2007 during the Bush administration. This mine, a “mountain top removal mine” when fully operational would have employed 235 miners and 300 indirect jobs in support services. Arch Coal has already set aside $250 million for this project, which now, under EPA orders, will have to be shut down.

The EPA cited its authority under the Clean Water Act, an action taken place only twice in the last 40 years and never before to a coal mine. This action predictably will send chills up the spines of business and industry who will assuredly be fearful of undertaking projects and investing money in those projects, especially now that we see an almost unprecedented revocation after a permit has been issued by the proper agency. Local reaction, including concerns by Senator Manchin can be see on this video here. Sorry, no embed code.

West Virginia is the second largest coal producer in the country:

  • $26 billion pumped into the West Virginia economy annually
  • $3.2 billion in wages for West Virginia families
  • 60,000 jobs
  • Jobs pay an average of $68,500 annually, more than twice the state average wage
  • 60% of the state’s business taxes are paid by coal and utilities

I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Bill Raney, President of the West Virginia Coal Association regarding the EPA’s arrogance and total disregard for “coal families” in West Virginia. He tells me there are of course the resident environmentalists and their “concerns”, mainly a study which shows the mine may have the potential of one insect, the mayfly, disappearing. However he has spoken openly and collectively with the residents who live in this rural area and they welcome the mine, the jobs and the dollars it will place into the West Virginia economy. He assured me unlike the Feds, the process has been open and transparent with community input all along and the mining company is always accessible to residents to listen to any concerns they may have. He also stated to me the claims of water contamination are unsubstantiated and some opponents are fabricating a “there will be cancer” fear. Also there are no streams involved, only ditches which are dry most of the year. In this type of mining the top of the mountain must be removed to extract the coal underneath. The “overburden” or material on top of the coal, is moved into the ditches. After the coal is extracted the overburden is placed back into its original area, reinstating the natural look of the environment.

Mr. Raney tells me the major problems began when the Obama administration came on line with its new staff. What do you know about that.

Arch Coal has already filed suit in DC court and also in the WVA southern district court. Reactions of West Virginia Congressional representatives and Governor Earl Tomblin are aggravation. Tomblin has announced a “Rally for Coal” on Thursday, January 20 in Charleston:

“Our coal industry provides jobs for our men and women, money for our children’s education, and energy for our country’s growing appetite for electricity,” Gov. Tomblin said. “We must stand up and show federal regulators that we will not retreat from their unfair actions. We will continue the fight not just for the Spruce Number One mine but for every coal miner, coal company and for our way of life.”

Senator Jay Rockefeller has sent a letter to President Obama, excerpted below:

I am writing to express my outrage with the EPA’s decision to veto a rigorously reviewed and lawfully issued permit at the Spruce Number 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia. This action not only affects this specific permit, but needlessly throws other permits into a sea of uncertainty at a time of great economic distress. It is further upsetting that the EPA is seeking to veto a permit that has already been so thoroughly reviewed.

Senator Manchin in this press release calls the EPA’s action “unprecedented and irresponsible.”

“It goes without saying, such an irresponsible regulatory step is not only a shocking display of overreach, it will have a chilling effect on investments and our economic recovery. I plan to do everything in my power to fight this decision.”

Rep. Nick Rahall, in this interview, calls the EPA’s decision “chilling.”

We presently have an oil drilling moratorium in parts of the Gulf and eastern seaboard. And Governor David Paterson of New York recently signed into law a ban on horizontal natural gas hydro-fracking under pressure of the ACORN-founded Working Families Party.

Now our coal is at risk. What’s left, my friends?

Crossposted at Conservative Outlooks

Crossposted at Procinct.net