Agencies Release Final Environmental Impact Statement on Mountaintop Mining Activities in Appalachia
Federal and state agencies released a final programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) that can lead to enhanced protection for Appalachian streams and other environmental resources in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and surrounding states where mountaintop mining occurs.
The preferred alternative in the programmatic EIS contains actions that could enhance protection for human health and the environment. This preferred alternative supports the potential for federal and state
agencies continuing to work together toward reducing environmental
-- Assessing aquatic ecosystem restoration and mitigation methods for mined lands and undertaking demonstration projects;
-- Evaluating the effects of mountaintop mining on stream chemistry and biology;
-- Working with states to refine the science-based protocols for
assessing the ecological functions and making permit decisions and
establishing mitigation requirements;
-- Working with interested stakeholders to develop a best management practices manual for restoration or replacement of aquatic resources;
-- Developing guidance, policies or rulemaking for consistent
definitions of stream characteristics as well as field methods for
delineating those characteristics; and
-- Incorporating mitigation and compensation monitoring plans into
permit inspection schedules and establishing financial liability (such
as bonding sureties) to ensure that reclamation and compensatory
mitigation projects are completed successfully.
Unlike a project EIS, a programmatic EIS is not a blueprint for actions on a site-specific basis. This programmatic EIS clarifies lines of responsibility among the agencies to improve compliance and enforcement of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).
The agencies included are: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Office of Surface Mining and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
The geographic area covered in this final programmatic EIS includes unique and essential habitat that is vital to both the region and the nation. This region also produces cleaner-burning low sulfur coal that will help the nation meet its energy needs.
The area that is affected by this programmatic EIS spans about 12 million ac and includes most of eastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia, western Virginia and scattered areas of east Tennessee.
The programmatic EIS compiled existing scientific data and generated new information through more than 30 studies of mountaintop mining and resulting valley fills. The agencies addressed and considered all public comments, which are included in the final document.
In addition to the actions outlined in the document, closer coordination by these agencies in recent years have resulted in many on-the-ground improvements and environmental protections as a part of the on-going regulatory process in Appalachia.