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KRC Responds To Announcement of Filing Of Bill By Senators McConnell and Paul To Limit EPA's Ability To Veto Mine Fill Permits Posted: March 4, 2011
I would hope that a majority of the Senators and their constituents will see the bill for what it does, which is to impose unreasonably short deadlines on EPA's ability to protect waters of our nation from pollution under Section 404(c)of the Clean Water Act, in order to facilitate the coal industry's preferred practice of using the headwaters of the public's rivers and streams in the Appalachian region for their waste disposal.
Section 2(3)(B) is a transparent effort to nullify the EPA's veto of the Spruce Mine 404 permit, which would have disposed of 110 million cubic yards of coal mine waste, burying more than six miles of high-quality streams in Logan County, West Virginia with millions of tons of mining waste from the dynamiting of more than 2,200 acres of mountains and forestlands.
It should be noted that EPA has vetoed only thirteen (13) 404 permit authorizations since 1972, since in most cases the applicants work with EPA and the Corps of Engineers to reduce impacts on streams, wetlands and rivers and to provide appropriate mitigation, in order to avoid a veto.
Ironically, if passed this bill will likely result in more, rather than less, EPA vetoes, since it eliminates the ability of EPA and the Corps to work with the applicants to accomplish the goals of the Section 404 program - eliminating unnecessary discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, and to minimize and mitigate for what you can't avoid. The 30-day and 60-day deadlines make that sort of negotiation practically impossible, and may result in the more vetoes of 404 authorization requests.
Congress set a goal of ending water pollution by 1985, and this bill will further compromise achieving that goal. Better mine planning and spoil management, and not political grandstanding, is what is needed to improve water quality in the Appalachian coal fields.