Maps of Permits
What is Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining?
Mountaintop removal coal mining is an extremely destructive form of strip mining found in central and southern Appalachia, with some mines as big as the island of Manhattan.
It tears apart communities, poisons water supplies, pollutes the air and destroys our nation's natural heritage – while only making the climate crisis worse. Learn more here.
Numerous individual and nationwide general 404 Clean Water Act Permits are applied for by coal companies in Central Appalachia. Nearly all of them get tied up in litigation suits filed by groups in West Virginia. On February 13th, 2009, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals delivers a "Friday the 13th verdict" ruling that the Army Corps of Engineers may proceed with valley fill permits associated with mountaintop removal mining, even though the fill material will contain coal mining waste.
Beginning in January 2009, the EPA began to exercise their option to review 48 of these permits as outlined in the Clean Water Act.
The EPA announced that 42 of 48 permits under their review were acceptable, and released them back to the Army Corps of Engineers. Six of the permits were held for further review.
The Obama Administration releases their "Interagency Action Plan to Address Strip Mining in Central Appalachia", a Memorandum of Understanding between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), Department of the Interior (DoI), and Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ).
Part of this plan dictated that the Corps headquarters (Corps HQ) and EPA headquarters (EPA HQ), together with Corps and EPA Regional offices, would actually begin communicating on the review of 404 Clean Water Act permits that contain "fill material" which is comprised of mining waste associated with mountaintop removal coal mining.
The Army Corps of Engineers identified 108 404 Clean Water Act Permit Applications associated with strip mining in Appalachia, which had received public notice by the Corps by March 31st, 2009. This list of permit applications includes both individual and nationwide general permits. The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers begin a 45-Day Enhanced Coordination and Review Period for these 108 permits.
The list of permit applications is whittled down to 86. An excerpt from a Question and Answer sheet released by the EPA explains:
Why has the Corps’ list changed since June 11?
An initial list of 108 pending Clean Water Act permit applications for proposed coal mines was provided by the Corps and published at the same time as the June 11, 2009 MOU. The original group of 108 projects included 13 projects whose permit applications have subsequently been withdrawn by the mining company, 8 projects for which permit issuance was imminent and occurred prior to, or concurrent with, the publication of the list, 3 projects for which an ongoing enforcement action currently precludes a permit decision, 1 permit application not complete, 1 project for which the work does not require a permit, and 5 underground mining projects determined not appropriate for the ECP. Also, 2 additional projects were added to the original list. In summary, 31 projects were removed from the original list of 108, and 2 were added, resulting in a total of 79 projects identified as remaining on the ECP list.
EPA HQ sends lists of permits they still have concerns over (and will go into a 60-day extended review period) to EPA Regions 3, 4, and 5 for further review.
EPA Regions 3, 4 and 5 announces that all 79 remaining valley fill permit applications will be held for further review and could be vetoed using CWA 404(c) authority.
FOR THE PERMIT APPLICATIONS THAT ARE ON the "SAFE" List:
The 60-day "trigger dates" will vary from permit-to-permit. EPA and Corps Regions will decided, on a case-by-case basis, when they are ready to begin the extended coordination period. During this time, they could visit the region, hold public forums, visit homes downstream, and generally enhance citizen input in the permitting process.
Throughout this period, the Corps will present the EPA with a revision of the original permit. Upon examination of the revision, EPA region will either recommend the permit application proceed to the Corps without further input from the EPA, or request an additional 10-day period to resolve any lingering concerns the EPA has with the application.
If, at the end of this total 70 day period, there is no agreement between EPA and Corps Regions, EPA HQ may take action under the CWA section 404(c) and veto the permit application altogether.