Tuesday, October 26, 2010

EC: Killing Us Softly

Tait Trussell

To the delight of radical environmentalists, a major source of energy to generate electricity is being threatened by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On Oct. 15, the EPA regional administrator for the country’s mid-Atlantic area, Shawn Garvin, urged his agency to revoke a permit for America’s largest “mountaintop,” or surface, coal mine site. This action forecasts higher electricity bills–just as President Obama himself warned of in 2008. Other industries also are at risk of arbitrary EPA action. West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney charged that the “withdrawal of the permit…continues this Administration’s war against Appalachian coal. It reveals an agency willing to put a political agenda ahead of people…and the jobs our nation so desperately needs,” Continuing, Raney said the decision “reneges on an already approved permit, something that has never been done previously. It would be the “first time ever that a permit would be revoked with an investment already in place,” explained Terry Headley, communication specialist with the West Virginia Coal Association. The site at issue is the Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County, West Virginia. “EPA has been involved in the whole process, for three years,” Headley added. He said the threat now extends to “any industry that applies for a permit from EPA.”

Raney also pointed out that the original mine design and production levels had been significantly reduced to address the concerns of EPA….This is the most scrutinized mining permit in the country….The decision to revoke the permit violates the sanctity of the legally-established permit process (and) unless changed they threaten the livelihoods of thousands of families across our region.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa) certainly no rigid conservative, said he was “extremely disappointed “ to learn of the EPA stance. “The fundamental issue with the Spruce Mine permit is one of fairness. From the beginning, the company has made good faith efforts to comply with all applicable laws and regulations…The second-guessing has got to stop. The coal industry, like any other, deserves to know that the commitments made by the government will be honored.” The permit was issued by the Army Corps of Engineers nearly four years ago.

Spouting a mouthful of distortions, the left-tilted environmental organization, Natural Resources Defense Council, said the EPA Administrator has taken “courageous action to move closer to revoking the federal permit issued in 2007 to Arch Coal to blow up a mountain (and) destroy 2,278 acres of temperate rainforest and bury more than 7 miles of streams.” This charge is wacko because there are five steps to surface mining (typically called “mountaintop mining”) that restore the area to its former condition. Federal and state reclamation and safety regulations are enforced throughout the mining process. The area is replanted with bushes, grasses, and hardwood seedlings, mining experts explain. The green-brained Sierra Club joined the fray with loony claims that “This mother of all mountaintop removal coal mines would destroy thousands of acres of land, bury seven miles of streams and end a way of life for too many Appalachian families.” (In fact, the streams are largely ditches and gullies with water only when it rains.)

Arch Coal has won seven environmental awards this year, two of them in West Virginia. Mountaintop mining is the most efficient and environmentally responsible type of surface mining, according to Walker Machinery Company which services 25 West Virginia counties. The company is also involved in forestry, construction and natural gas operations. Land that has been mined and restored now serves agricultural, recreational, and commercial purposes. Even the FBI Center is on former mined land. Mountaintop, or surface, mining doesn’t blanket usable streams, despite the inflammatory claims the environmentalists spew. And the law requires that mined land be restored to its “approximate original contour.”

The West Virginia Coal Association says that two of the state’s 55 counties’ acreage permitted for mining is less than 1 percent. Most of the other counties have no permits for mountaintop mining. Coal was discovered in Boone County, West Virginia, in 1742. It still produces more than 33 million tons a year.

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