KRC Comments On Proposed Underground Mine Near Lynch Water Reservoir Posted: December 9, 2009
December 3, 2009
Ms. Jennifer Thompson
Department for Natural Resources
Division of Mine Permits
#2 Hudson Hollow
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
Re: Harlan Reclamation Services
Permit Application 867-5226 Amendment #3
Dear Ms. Thompson:
These comments are submitted by the Kentucky Resources Council, Inc. on behalf of members who live, work, and recreate in Harlan County, Kentucky in areas overlying the proposed underground workings for which the proposed Amendment has been submitted, and whose use of the public water supply of Lynch, Kentucky for potable and other beneficial uses may be adversely affected by issuance of the requested permit application.
Initially, let me express my appreciation both for the extension of the comment period, and for the sincere concern that your agency has shown for protecting the unique and irreplaceable water reservoir that serves the community of Lynch, Kentucky. I am aware that numerous staff within the permitting branch have indicated concern that the reservoir that is fed by Looney Creek and in turn provides a high quality raw water resource for Lynch, may be damaged by the individual and cumulative impacts of the numerous surface and underground mining operations that have been proposed in various seams within the vicinity and upstream of the reservoir. The agency’s attention to the unique characteristics and low tolerance of the reservoir to additional siltation, to subsidence damage, and to disruption of the seals by virtue of mining near or beneath the reservoir, is appreciate by KRC and the members we represent.
I understand that during the permit conference and in written comments, the agency has been made aware of the sensitivity of area residents to the approval of a new mine permit allowing extraction of coal by underground methods underlying some 11,493 acres.
I am writing to underscore three points that need to be carefully evaluated by the agency.
First, the necessity of a proper and thorough Cumulative Hydrologic Impact Assessment. As you are aware, KRC has filed a notice of intention to sue the agency for failure to properly implement the mandatory requirement to conduct a Cumulative Hydrologic Impact Assessment (CHIA) in accordance with PL 95-87, the approved state program, and the federal and state regulations.
The agency must assess the potential impacts on the hydrologic balance of all currently permitted and anticipated mining (surface and underground) on the recharge to any aquifers and water supplies, the rate, quality, and velocity of runoff, the quality of water relative to actual and designated uses, and other impacts to the hydrologic balance that could be caused or exacerbated by this extensive expansion of underground mining.
The Notice of Intent To Sue indicates that categorical litigation will be stayed pending either successful negotiation of a CHIA protocol or reaching an impasse. KRC appreciates the seriousness of purpose that Danita and others have brought to those negotiations, but nothing in that process precludes KRC from challenging individual permit approvals, and this application is a poster-child for why a CHIA that comprehensively assesses the individual and cumulative impacts from multiple mines within a watershed is necessary. Absent a CHIA based on properly sited and collected data, and modeled and assessed in accordance with the best available published guidance from OSM on what constitutes an acceptable CHIA, KRC will litigate any approval of this permit. The agency is already in possession of the 1985 Draft OSM Guidelines for Preparation of a CHIA, which we believe represent the best analytical template for undertaking such an assessment.
Second, KRC believes that the permit cannot be issued unless the applicant can either demonstrate with absolute and enforceable assurance that either there is no possibility that the mining could adversely affect the Lynch reservoir, or the demonstration that a public water supply is available to replace the loss or diminution of the existing water source. It is KRC’s understanding that no local public water sources will commit to provide such replacement to the Lynch community.
Absent a demonstration of no potential adverse impact on the quality or quantity of the Lynch reservoir, based on a buffer of sufficient area to prevent any adverse impact to the reservoir seals from subsidence, vibration, blasting, or engineering error, and verifiable by the agency in real time using GPS tracking in order to assure that the mining operation does not inadvertently or intentionally come closer to the reservoir than is prudent, the permit cannot be issued. Similarly, the potential for adverse effects on the watershed draining into Looney Creek, and the creek itself, which sources the reservoir, must be completely mitigated.
Third, KRC believes that the interagency notice of permit acceptance and determination of administrative completeness must be reissued to the other agencies, inasmuch as the notice failed to inform the sister agencies that the mining would occur in both Letcher and Harlan Counties. The letter indicated that the applicant sought approval to conduct underground mining in Letcher County, and failed to include the extensive acreage sought to be undermined, and the fact that mining would occur in both Letcher and Harlan Counties.
Thank you for your consideration of these concerns.