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On January 13, 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) vetoed the issuance of a Clean Water Act permit by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Mingo Logan Coal Company for the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia. This is the first time the EPA has used this authority since the Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972.
We are in the midst of a difficult economy, and EPA’s unprecedented action will result in the loss of 250 jobs, paying on average $62,000, so one would think that the EPA has compelling case against the Spruce No. 1 Mine. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
An audit of the EPA’s veto, “Final Determination of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Pursuant to 404(c) of the Clean Water Act Concerning the Spruce No. 1 Mine, Logan County, West Virginia (‘Final Determination’),” reveals some troubling findings.
The document is pure environmental hyperbole. It is riddled with mistakes, incorrect citations, and false certainty. Indeed, virtually all of the EPA’s definitive claims about the “unacceptable adverse impacts” to non-insect wildlife are unsupported by the literature it cites. Among the lowlights:
The EPA has evidence that certain genera of pollution-sensitive insects would be harmed downstream of the Spruce No. 1 Mine, due to increases in salinity discharge from the project. Everything else—including all of the EPA’s claims about amphibians, fish, and birds—is either scientifically unfounded or legally irrelevant. The Appendix addresses these issues in detail.