The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revoked a permit for one of the country’s largest mountaintop removal coal mines on Thursday.
Arch Coal’s Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County was previously granted a Clean Water permit under the Bush administration in 2007, but its construction has been delayed by lawsuits. Environmentalists and local residents say the operation would hurt streams and local communities, while Arch says the mine is necessary for West Virginia’s economy.
The federal government nine months ago moved to rescind the permit for the 2,3000-acre project, which would bury seven miles of streams, devastate wildlife and endanger human health with hazardous pollutants.
“The proposed Spruce No. 1 Mine would use destructive and unsustainable mining practices that jeopardize the health of Appalachian communities and clean water on which they depend,” said Peter S. Silva, the EPA’s assistant administrator for water, according to the New York Times. “Coal and coal mining are part of our nation’s energy future, and E.P.A. has worked with companies to design mining operations that adequately protect our nation’s waters. We have a responsibility under the law to protect water quality and safeguard the people who rely on clean water.”
The decision has already been met with defiance by the St. Louis-based coal company, which plans to challenge the veto in court.
“We remain shocked and dismayed at E.P.A.’s continued onslaught with respect to this validly issued permit,” said spokeswoman Kim Link, according to the Times. “Absent court intervention, E.P.A.’s final determination to veto the Spruce permit blocks an additional $250 million investment and 250 well-paying American jobs.”
“Furthermore, we believe this decision will have a chilling effect on future U.S. investment,” she added, “because every business possessing or requiring a permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act will fear similar overreaching by the E.P.A. It’s a risk many businesses cannot afford to take.”
This is only the 13th time the agency has revoked a water permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.