Although we do not generally like to reprint news stories around these parts, this one is just too perfect not to. Not to mention I am too busy doing the happy dance to rewrite it; the EPA just gained a few coolness points in my book. The original article location is linked to the title. How do you feel about this?
EPA review of mining permits signals policy shift
By DINA CAPPIELLO, Associated Press Writer Dina Cappiello, Associated Press Writer – Wed Mar 25, 4:07 am ET
WASHINGTON – Breaking with the policies of the Bush administration, the Environmental Protection Agency is sharpening its oversight of mountaintop coal mining to ensure projects do not harm streams and wetlands.
EPA administrator Lisa Jackson on Tuesday directed the agency staff to review 150 to 200 applications for new or expanded surface coal mines, many mountaintop removal operations, pending before the federal government.
The agency also objected to two permits slated for approval by the Army Corps of Engineers because the companies had not done enough to avoid and minimize damage to water quality and stream channels.
The permits authorize mining companies that blast away mountaintops to access coal to dump the waste into streams and wetlands.
The actions "reflect EPA's considerable concern regarding the environmental impact these projects would have on fragile habitats and streams," Jackson said in a statement.
Environmentalists hailed the decision as a sea change in policy. The EPA has always had the authority to review and veto permits issued by the Corps of Engineers, but it rarely did so during the Bush administration.
The Corps has long been criticized by environmental and community groups and has been sued for failing to thoroughly evaluate the environmental impact of mountaintop removal.
Under the Clean Water Act, companies cannot discharge rock, dirt and other debris into streams unless they can show they will not cause permanent damage to waterways or the fish and other wildlife that live in them.
Last month, a three-judge appeals panel in Richmond, VA, overturned a lower court's ruling that would have required the Corps to conduct more extensive reviews. The appeals court decision cleared the way for a backlog of permits that had been delayed until the lawsuit was resolved.
The EPA's action on Tuesday could leave those permit requests in limbo a little longer.
Ginger Mullins, regulatory branch chief for the Corps' Huntington District, which covers portions of Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, said the EPA reviews will delay approval of projects.
"It will take more time," said Mullins.