Mountaintop Removal Victory in West Virginia

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The Sierra Club is declaring victory after the US Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will veto Spruce Mine No. 1, one of the largest mountaintop removal mines ever proposed for Appalachia.

“Since 1998, Sierra Club along with Coal River Mountain Watch, WV Highlands Conservancy, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Public Justice and the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment have fought hard to stop Spruce Mine,” the organization said.

“This year alone, Sierra Club members and supporters like you sent almost 37,000 messages to the EPA urging them to protect the seven miles of streams and 2,000 acres of mountains that Spruce Mine would have destroyed.”

“After extensive scientific study, a major public hearing in West Virginia and review of more than 50,000 public comments, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it will use its authority under the Clean Water Act to halt the proposed disposal of mining waste in streams at the Mingo-Logan Coal Company’s Spruce No. 1 coal mine,” the agency said in a statement.

“EPA is acting under the law and using the best science to protect water quality, wildlife and Appalachian communities, who rely on clean waters for drinking, fishing and swimming. EPA has used this Clean Water Act authority in just 12 circumstances since 1972 and reserves this authority for only unacceptable cases. This permit was first proposed in the 1990s and has been held up in the courts ever since,” the EPA said.

The proposed mine project would have:

  • Disposed of 110 million cubic yards of coal mine waste into streams.
  • Buried 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. 
  • Buried more than 35,000 feet of high-quality streams under mining waste, which will eliminate all fish, small invertebrates, salamanders, and other wildlife that live in them.
  • Polluted downstream waters as a result of burying these streams, which will lead to unhealthy levels of salinity and toxic levels of selenium that turn fresh water into salty water. The resulting waste that then fills valleys and streams can significantly compromise water quality, often causing permanent damage to ecosystems and streams.
  • Caused downstream watershed degradation that will kill wildlife, impact birdlife, reduce habitat value, and increase susceptibility to toxic algal blooms.
  • Inadequately mitigated for the mine’s environmental impacts by not replacing streams being buried, and attempting to use stormwater ditches as compensation for natural stream losses.

The EPA will accept public comment on the proposed halting of the mine in West Virginia for 60 days.

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