Written by: Dan Radmacher
March 27, 2012
Attorneys for Appalachian Mountain Advocates have been fighting the largest mountaintop removal permit in West Virginia history since 1998. With last week’s decision by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to overturn the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s veto of the permit for the Spruce No. 1 mine, that fight will continue.
The judge ruled that the EPA had overstepped its authority by revoking the permit after it had been issued. The EPA should appeal that ruling.
When the EPA announced its veto, the agency discussed the importance of the streams that would be buried if the permitted activities were allowed:
As least-disturbed streams in a watershed largely affected by mining, Pigeonroost Branch, Oldhouse Branch and their tributaries represent a high-value resource for the wildlife within the watershed. The Spruce No. 1 Mine will eliminate the entire suite of important physical, chemical and biological functions provided by these streams, including maintenance of biologically diverse wildlife habitat, and will critically degrade the chemical and biological integrity of downstream waters.
This remains true. And it is also true that the scientific understanding of the value of headwaters has grown since the permit was issued in 2007 – information that led EPA to conclude the Spruce permit should be vetoed.
The Clean Water Act gives EPA the authority to prohibit the specification of an area as a disposal site (or to withdraw such specification) whenever it determines that such usage would have an unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds or fisheries, recreation areas or wildlife – an important authority for the agency charged with protecting the nation’s waters.
We will continue to fight this permit by every possible means and believe we can stop this mine and prevent all the damage it would cause.