The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in early January that it will use its authority under the Clean Water Act to halt the proposed disposal of mining waste in streams at the Mingo-Logan Coal Co.’s Spruce No. 1 coal mine. “The proposed Spruce No. 1 mine would use destructive and unsustainable mining practices that jeopardize the health of Appalachian communities and clean water on which they depend,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Peter S. Silva. “Coal and coal mining are part of our nation’s energy future and EPA has worked with companies to design mining operations that adequately protect our nation’s waters.”

EPA’s final determination on the Spruce Mine comes after discussions with the company spanning more than a year failed to produce an agreement that would lead to a significant decrease in impacts to the environment and Appalachian communities. The action prevents the mine from disposing of the waste into streams unless the company identifies an alternative mining design that would avoid irreversible damage to water quality and meets the requirements of the law.

“EPA’s veto of an existing, valid permit for the Spruce No. 1 mine threatens the certainty of all Section 404 permits—weakening the trust U.S. businesses and workers need to make investments and secure jobs,” said Hal Quinn, president and CEO, National Mining Association. “The Spruce permit was issued after a robust 10-year review, including an exhaustive Environmental Impact Statement. EPA participated fully in the comprehensive permitting process, and the project has abided by every permit requirement.

“EPA has taken this unprecedented action—never before contemplated in the nearly 40 years since the enactment of the Clean Water Act—at a time of great economic uncertainty. NMA urges the administration to step back from this unwarranted action and restore trust in the sanctity of lawfully granted and abided by permits and the jobs and economic activity they support.”