Pine Creek Mine
In June 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave the Army Corps of Engineers a green light to issue a Clean Water Act permit for Arch Coal subsidiary Coal-Mac to excavate a new mountaintop removal operation, Pine Creek Mine, in Logan County, W.V. Pine Creek mine is expected to produce 14.3 million tons of coal.
This is the first permit decision the EPA has issued under the new mountaintop mining guidelines, which came out in April 2010 and were expected to provide tougher oversight of mountaintop removal coal mining. The Pine Creek Surface Mine permit will allow Coal-Mac to mine through more than 2 miles of streams that are already suffering dangerous levels of pollution from surface mining.
The new MTR guidelines were understood to provide greater protection for headwater streams by curbing the practice of dumping waste in neighboring valleys, what has been called valley fills. It was anticipated that the guidelines, by requiring mining operators to control levels of toxins in nearby streams, would significantly reduce the dumping of mining waste in valleys, which the EPA said was scientifically proven to contaminate drinking water and thus violate the Clean Water Act. Yet the Pine Creek permit green lighted three new valley fills, each over 40 acres large, in an area where watersheds are already degraded. Since 1992, nearly 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams have been filled at a rate of 120 miles per year by surface mining practices, and a recent EPA study found elevated levels of highly toxic selenium in streams downstream from valley fills.
On July 1, 2010, the environmental group Philly Against Coal (PAC) dressed up as a group of young entrepreneurs, setting up shop outside the Region 3 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) office in Philadelphia, where the Pine Creek permit was authorized. They were selling “real West Virginia lemonade” made with “EPA-approved fresh Appalachian mountain spring water.” On closer inspection, their pitchers were filled with foamy brown liquid. PAC served the beverage to raise awareness around water pollution in Appalachia that is a consequence of mountaintop removal mining, specifically the new mine site in Pine Creek, WV.
According to PAC member Cat Glenn: “We thought that under the new guidelines, permits like this would no longer be deemed acceptable. The EPA is not protecting the people of Appalachia. They are allowing King Coal to destroy the environment and poison the local communties. People in Philadelphia don’t want to drink this water, so why does the EPA give the ok for people in West Virginia to drink it?”
- Owner: CoalMac
- Parent company: Arch Coal
- Location: Logan County, West Virgina
- GPS coordinates:
- Type of coal: High Vol Met, Utility, and Industrial
- Mine type: Surface
- Equipment: Mountaintop removal
- Number of employees:
- Recoverable Reserves: 14.3 million tons
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- "Much-Lauded Strict Mountaintop Mining Guidelines Not So Strict" RAN, June 29, 2010.
- "EPA Lemonade Shockingly Unpopular" Philadelphia Rising Tide, July 2, 2010.