Rockefeller Fights for West Virginia Surface Mining

Rockefeller challenges the EPA for requesting the Army Corps of Engineers to revoke a West Virginia surface mining permit

September 11, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, pressed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson on the EPA’s request to suspend or revoke the already approved surface mining permit for the Spruce Number 1 Mine in Logan County.  Senator Rockefeller sent a copy of the letter to President Obama, including a personal note emphasizing its importance.
“Retroactively reviewing lawfully issued permits is an affront to the West Virginia coal industry which is trying to play by the rules. It is fundamentally unfair to change the rules for a permit issued over two years ago and this letter raises serious questions about the EPA’s approach,” said Senator Rockefeller.
In his letter to the EPA, Senator Rockefeller wrote:
“I am a long time supporter of surface mining operations when done in accordance with the law.  Surface mining is vital to the economy of southern West Virginia and our nation’s electricity needs and it certainly can be carried out in a way that addresses environmental impacts.  We must not lose sight of the fact that coal meets half of our nation’s electricity needs and powers millions of American homes and businesses and will for decades into the future.  For generations, coal has given the American people the highest standard of living in the world and today much of it comes from rigorously reviewed and safely-run operations in West Virginia.  Calling previously approved permits into question needlessly threatens not only the economic stability of many West Virginia communities, but also our nation’s energy security.”
  • The Spruce Number 1 Mine permit was reviewed by the Corps of Engineers for nearly ten years before being approved in January 2007, and has been active for over two years. 
  • To satisfy initial EPA concerns, the final permit reduced the acreage of the permit by 835 acres or 27 percent and excess spoil by 150 million cubic yards, a 57 percent decrease.
  • EPA Region III sent a letter on September 3, 2009 to the Army Corps of Engineers, asking the Corps to reevaluate the Spruce 1 Mine permit.
  • The Spruce Mine Permit is not a pending application to be considered as part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that the Corps of Engineers entered into with the EPA (as well as the Department of Interior) in June 2009.
  • Reopening a permit over two years after it was lawfully issued creates an unacceptable level uncertainty for all previously issued permits, a result completely contrary to the goals of the MOU. 
 ***Please see Rockefeller's letter to Lisa Jackson below***