17 February 2010

W.Va. Coal Lobby Puts the Wood to Obama EPA

The West Virginia Coal Association gave an earful to a new House committee assigned to review the handling of federal mining permits, and the industry's complaints of same, The Associated Press reports.

"Association lobbyists told a special House committee that the ongoing 'enhanced review' of 20 other permits threatens plans to open or expand mines that could extract 19 million tons of coal a year," the article said.

The association officials said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has second-guessed both the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Protection regarding state water quality standards.

Lobbyists told lawmakers that "EPA's permit objections boil down to concerns that waterways disturbed by mining apparently displace a species of mayfly, and so disrupts the local ecosystem," the article said. "The federal agency was not represented at the meeting, and a spokesperson could not immediately comment afterward. But a West Virginia Environmental Council lobbyist who did attend said some of the association's allegations appeared exaggerated."

In related news, The Charleston Gazette reports on a new U.S. General Accounting Office report that found that mountaintop removal mining "damages water quality, reforestation efforts need improvement, and mine operators often do not comply with the approximate original contour reclamation requirement."

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