Last April, the EPA issued a draft proposal for strict, new guidelines for approving valley fill permits. These new guidelines are now out for public comment as part of the review process for final implementation. While we continue to call for the complete abolition of surface mining in Appalachia, CGZ and citizens’ groups across the coalfields feel these guidelines are a critical step in curtailing MTR. The comment period ends on December 1st.
The guidance, following the science laid out in January’s landmark article in the prestigious journal Science that found “pervasive and irreversible impacts” from MTR, would place strong restrictions on the downstream water impacts of valley fills. When it was first announced, Administrator Jackson told reporters, ““We expect this guidance to change behaviors, to change actions, because if we keep doing what we have been doing, we’re going to see continued degradation of water quality… Minimizing the number of valley fills is a very, very key factor. You’re talking about no or very few valley fills that are going to be able to meet standards like this.”
However, in June the EPA announced that they had approved 3 new valley fills in Logan County, WV for Arch Coal’s Pine Creek Surface Mine, albeit with greater restrictions than prior permits. Despite the dubious effectiveness of the new guidelines, they give us a important new weapon in holding the EPA’s feet to the fire on the issuance of new valley fill permits. The science behind the new rules recently passed a critical review from the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, and the rules appear close to final approval. Please take a moment of your time to tell the EPA not to cave in to coal industry pressure and to finalize and enforce the new standards.