EPA gets Miller Creek blame

NATIONAL Mining Association officials are pointing fingers at the US Environmental Protection Agency in response to yesterday’s announcement by Consol Energy that a series of permit delays led to its decision to idle its Miller Creek surface operations.

Donna Schmidt

“The EPA continues to cost jobs and economic development in Appalachia with its virtual moratorium on coal mining permits – a moratorium that continues in defiance of court rulings,” the NMA said.

Consol has been working with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Environmental Protection Agency since 2007 to secure the necessary environmental permits for the Naugatuck, Mingo county, complex, including Clean Water Act section 404 and 402 permits.

However, Consol was told on October 29 that the US EPA had released its objection to the 402 permit, but that permit alone was not enough to allow miners to begin work.

The NMA said the EPA’s holding of the 404 permit was essential to Miller Creek. With the issue at an impasse, the closure of Wiley, Wiley Cree and Minway surface mines, the Minway preparation plant and Miller Creek Administration Group will have an impact on 145 workers.

The furloughs will begin on December 30 and occur over a 14-day period.

“[It is] only the tip of the full impact on the region, as the EPA’s decision will affect the completion of the King Coal Highway, a key part of the region’s economic development strategy, as well as other organizations and businesses that depend on coal jobs and purchases,” the NMA said.

“The courts have already told the EPA to cease and desist with its interference with other agency and state actions and its job-crushing policies. Nonetheless, the agency continues to frustrate coal mining and coal use throughout the United States, needlessly costing jobs and causing undue economic harm for thousands of Americans.”

Consol said the Miller Creek’s underground operations would not be affected.

To date, the complex has produced 1.55 million tons of coal, 83% of which came from its surface operations.

The annual direct estimated impact of the Miller Creek complex in Mingo county is $US161.6 million.

The surface facility has had no lost time accidents since 1986.

Consol president Nicholas Deluliis said the decision to idle the Miller Creek surface operations had been a difficult one.

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