U.S. Mountain-Top Mining Permit Decisions Will Be Coming Shortly


"The U.S. Clean Water Act 404 mountain-top mining permits will have their fates decided by EPA within the next few weeks. "

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson Thursday said her agency is now reviewing 84 mountaintop mining permits approved by the Army of Corps of Engineers to determine if they hold up under the Federal Clean Water Act or will have to be ultimately vetoed.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Jackson said the decisions will have to be made within the next few weeks.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the EPA, the Secretary of the Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers in June that has implemented tougher federal regulation of mountaintop coal mining in six states. The Corps and the EPA have established a process for CWA Section 404 permit applications for surface coal mining activities that would discharge fill material into U.S. waterways.

At the time, National Mining Association Senior Vice President Carol Raulston said the process "adds further uncertainty to the policy/policies governing permit applications for surface coal mining at a time when employment and economic uncertainty are not what we need."

Meanwhile, the reluctance of President Obama's choice for the Office of Surface Mining to comment during his August 6th Senate confirmation hearing on mountaintop mining or what changes the Obama Administration might propose has drawn fire from environmental special interest groups.

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has yet to vote on the confirmation of Pennsylvania mining regulator Joseph G. Pizarchik as the new director of the OSM. The committee is expected to vote on his confirmation when the Senate reconvenes after Labor Day.

In a recent statement, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Executive Director Jeff Ruch said, "Putting forward a nominee who claims ignorance on a central issue so that his true position cannot be discerned is the sort of cynical politics I thought President Obama vowed to change."

Glenda Owens, one of the Bush Administration's leading defenders of mountain-top mining, will remain as deputy OSM director, which has also disappointed PEER.

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