EPA Gives Coal Mining Company Reason To Celebrate While Environmentalists Cry Foul


The Environmental Protection Agency announced a compromise regarding one mountain top coal mine in West Virginia.  The mine will receive its permit to operate but must decrease its pollution of surrounding streams by half.

The Hobet 45 mine in West Virginia encompasses 25 square miles in the southern part of the state.

It was one of 79 sites the EPA decided to take a closer look at in September because of environmental concern.

Negotiation and compromise between the mining company and the Environmental Protection Agency has cleared the way for the surface mine’s operation because they EPA says it now meets Clean Water Act standards.

The mining company has promised to reduce the number of streams it will fill with the debris during the mountain top removal process – from 6 miles of streams to 3 miles. The company, Patriot Coal, will also have to monitor and contain its pollution.

In a statement, Patriot Coal, said it is “pleased” with the decision and that it will still be able to produce 91% of the coal from the site. The company thanked local and congressional politicians for their help.

West Virginia Robert Byrd told the West Virginia Gazette that this is a good deal between regulation and industry.

But environmentalists are disappointed in EPA’s decision. They want a complete halt to all mountain top removal mining.

“It looks like EPA and the industry are rearranging deck chairs on the titanic,” said Janet Keating, Executive Director of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition in West Virginia.

“It’s more business as usual. The coal industry seems to have undue influence over our decision makers and are trading people’s health, community and water for profit,” Keating said.

Keating points to the fact that the EPA failed to conduct and environmental impact study of the mine. In an email exchange, the EPA said the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers completed a less formal Environmental Assessment and determined “the Corps determined the project would result in less than significant environmental impacts.”

The union, the United Mine Workers of America, is bucking the environmentalists and applauding the decision.

The proposed Hobet 45 mine site employs about 450 members of the United Mine Workers.

Less than half of the mines in West Virginia are unionized. The union is fighting to ensure their workers retain their jobs.

Phil Smith is Communications Director for the United Mine Workers of America. He says “this will help preserve their jobs and their ability to earn income to take care of their families.”

Smith says the United Mine Workers communicated extensively with the EPA about the impact of closing the mine.

Mountain Top Removal, also called surface mining, is controversial because of the water pollution, deforestation, and destruction of the  mountain and the health impacts on the surrounding community.

Environmentalists say their next step will be to ensure the pollution levels from the mine are in compliance with the law.

For an audio version of this story visit, FSRN.org


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