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Spruce Mine Permit Op-Ed by Bill Raney

The EPA has declared a war on Appalachian Coal. The agency’s apparent intent to rescind the already issued Spruce Mine permit is the first time the agency has ever taken such an action and shows a reckless disregard for the impact on our people, on future investment in our region and even for basic fairness.

This action threatens the very future of mining in our state and region… not just mountaintop mining operations or even surface mining … but all forms of mining and with it the futures of the 50,000 West Virginia and 80,000 Appalachian families whose livelihoods depend on coal. We call upon our Congressional representatives, our local and state elected officials and everyone concerned about the future of our state and our region to let the EPA and the Obama Administration know this effort to destroy the Eastern coal industry must come to a stop. We call upon the EPA and the Obama Administration to LEGALIZE COAL!
The EPA issued the Spruce Mine permit in June 2007 – almost three years ago. During the 10-year review process prior to its issuance, the EPA had participated along with the other agencies every step of the way during the permit’s 10 year review and had previously praised the company’s efforts to redesign the application.

During the permit’s 10 year review, the original mine design and production levels were significantly reduced to address the concerns of the EPA -- for example, the final permitted acreage was reduced by 27 percent and the fill placement was reduced by 57 percent. Total recoverable reserves of coal were reduced by 10.6 million tons as a result.

In fact, this permit The permit is the most scrutinized mining permit in history  in West Virginia or the Appalachian region.

Since the permit was issued, Arch Coal has made significant investment in the project, people have been hired and are at work.

At full production the mine would employ 235 miners and create another 300 indirect and induced jobs in the area.

The jobs created by the Spruce permit would be high-paying, long-term employment opportunities.  These jobs would pay approximately $70,000 annually with full benefits and the total economic impact of this operation is estimated at approximately $15 0 million annually.
As I have said, the EPA’s apparent decision to rescind this permit endangers not just this permit … not just other mountaintop mining operations … not just all surface mining in the region … but it in fact endanger all mining in state and the region.

How can a company justify investing dollars in an industry or region when they cannot be assured that even once they get a permit and begin work that the federal government can simply go back even years later and tell them that the permit they were awarded isn’t worth the paper on which it is printed?

The EPA and the Obama Administration appear more than willing to sacrifice entire industries, thousands of jobs and bankrupt counties and states even as they ask the American taxpayer to shoulder more and more costs for questionable big government programs.

As Governor Manchin said in his State of the State Address this past January, “Our coal miners aren’t asking for a handout. They are just asking for the ability to work!”

Our coal miners are hard-working, honorable, caring people. They work hard every day to provide the coal that is the foundation of our state and regional economy and indeed provides the basic raw materials on which our nation’s economy depends. The time has come to step back from the precipice and put people first … to put our families and our economy before politics and personal agendas.”