WV Coal Member Meeting 2024 1240x200 1 1

WVCA Statements Concerning EPA’s Proposed Revocation of the Spruce Mine Permit

Statement of Jason D. Bostic
West Virginia Coal Association
Concerning EPA’s Proposed Revocation of the Spruce Mine Permit

Thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight and thank you for attentiveness to this issue.
Briefly touch on some technical aspects of the Spruce Mine and your agency’s actions to revoke a three year-old permit.
First, I think it is beyond argument that any action by EPA to revoke the Spruce Mine permit fails the statutory test and parameters of authority that are granted to your agency under Section 404(c) of the federal Clean Water Act.  EPA. Has in fact admitted as much when it confessed that over the 38 year course of its existence it has never sought to revoke an issued permit.
EPA’s action relative to the Spruce permit should have occurred when the Corps issued the permit… some three years ago.  But EPA did not take such actions, and in fact complimented the Corps and the Company on the actions is has taken to bring the permit to fruition.
So, what has changed in three years since the Spruce permit was issued?
According the Corps, not much at all.  The Corps has officially responded, in detail to EPA’s allegations of harm.  In each and every instance the Corps DID NOT agree with EPA’s supposed evidence that revocation of the permit was warranted.  Because many of EPA’s allegations related to water quality and the interpretation and implementation of West Virginia’s water quality standards, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection responded as well.   Here again, WV DEP found no reason to believe that issuance of the Spruce permit or its operational record over three years warranted this unprecedented move to revoke an issued permit.  Moreover, the West Virginia Legislature, which reviews and adopts water quality standards for the state of West Virginia under the federal-state relationship, established by the federal Clean Water Act, has formally concluded that West Virginia’s water quality standards were correctly interpreted and implemented with respect to the Spruce Mine permit.
So, again, I raise the question of what has changed… from our viewpoint, nothing except the attitude of EPA… that suddenly a federal agency know better how to read water quality standards… better than the Corps… better than the state agency that is directly responsible for implementing the standards… better than the elected Legislature that actually passed the standards that EPA seeks to interpret.  Finally, this new EPA somehow knows better than the EPA of three years ago that actually approved the Spruce Mine permit.
This situation would be a laughable exercise in regulatory dysfunction if it were not so serious… that a federal agency would use STATE laws and regulations to as a hammer to take a permit endorsed by that very state.  That EPA would seek to void millions of hours of analysis and review by the Corps in the issuance of the project specific EIA…
But this is a serious situation…  hundreds of jobs are at stake, millions of dollars of investment…  millions of dollars of potential tax revenues and the faith and participation of the communities in and around the Spruce Mine…. The very communities that EPA somehow thinks they are protecting by hijacking their ability to control their own destiny.
Statement of Chris R. Hamilton
Senior Vice-President
West Virginia Coal Association
Concerning EPA’s Proposed Revocation of the Spruce Mine Permit  

Thanks for the opportunity to speak tonight, and I would especially like to thank Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin for taking the time to personally hear our concerns.
We are here tonight to talk about the Spruce No.1 Mine permit and EPA’s unprecedented actions to REVOKE an issued permit… a permit that the agency could have very well moved to veto when it was issued, but chose not to do so.  We are now confronted with this immediate situation where EPA is going to take away a permit that has been issued for three years.
I want to speak tonight and remind EPA and everyone else of the carefully-crafted goals and objectives of the federal Clean Water Act and how that statute sought to balance reasonable economic development with stringent environmental protection.
One of the ways the Clean Water Act sought to strike that balance was by reserving to the states the primary responsibility for implanting water quality standards to preserve stream uses and issue permits that implement discharge standards allowing use while maintaining water quality standards.
West Virginia has been implementing its version of the Clean Water Act for decades, issuing permits that contain some of the nation’s most stringent discharge limits to protect water quality standards -- standards many states have chosen not even to adopt.
West Virginia’s implementation of its water quality standards and permitting programs was unchallenged by EPA for years…. or until the federal agency sought to hijack the state’s primary responsibility for water quality protection by interpreting the state’s own water standards… and doing so in such a way that conflicts with the state’s own interpretation.
During the recently concluded 2010 legislative session, the West Virginia Legislature, which has the ultimate responsibility for adopting changes to water quality standards within the state’s clean water act program, made it clear to the world that it DID NOT share EPA’s interpretation of its water quality standards program.  Further, with the passage of House Concurrent Resolution 111, the Legislature made it crystal clear that any interpretation of a water quality standard that prevented reasonable economic development would not only conflict with the state Clean Water Act but the federal Clean Water Act as well.
Finally, the Legislature also spoke directly to the issue at hand concerning the Spruce Mine with the passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution 61…  which not only urged EPA not to revoke the issued permit but reminded you folks in Philadelphia and Washington that any interpretation and implementation of West Virginia water quality standards is the responsibility of the Legislature and the WV DEP… both of which have already determined through the issuance of the related state permits that the Spruce Mine complies with the Clean Water Act.
In closing…  these legislative actions to remind you of the carefully crafted balance of federal and state authority, of environmental protection and economic development created by the Clean Water Act….  In short, if EPA respects the boundaries of its authorizing statute, if it respects the primary responsibilities of the state and the Corps to implement their own programs, then it has no choice but to leave the Spruce No. 1 Mine permit alone and allow our coal miners to work.
Statement of Bill Raney
West Virginia Coal Association
Concerning EPA’s Proposed Revocation of the Spruce Mine Permit  

Mr. Pomponio --- Mr. Garvin.
I’m Bill Raney and I’m very proud to represent the West Virginia Coal Association
We appreciate you being here tonight and we welcome you to Charleston.
However, we think if you “dig deep” and “honestly answer” the common workingman’s definition of “environmental justice.” You’ll find this “threat” by EPA, your agency to revoke this permit without any reason – to be “wrong”
“Revoking” this permit that was “lawfully issued” almost three years ago, with your “agency’s blessing”  after more than ten years of the “most comprehensive” environmental review, again by your agency, is as “troublesome”—“unnecessary” and “arrogant” as anything we’ve ever seen in West Virginia
“To take these jobs” which are “real” --- “tangible” --- and “a source” of confidence and value for the people of West Virginia and Appalachia without any suggestion that performance has not been “in complete compliance” on this job for nearly three years is an “injustice.”
This action seems to be based on “supposition and self-conducted studies” that are designed to “support” the “personal opinions and objectives” of people in Washington and Philadelphia.
There is no “evident concern” for the “real impact” of  taking “real” jobs or for the men and women who get up every morning to go to in West Virginia so you can have electric lights in DC and Pennsylvania. These jobs that are paying for their homes, their childrens’ education, health care for their aging parents’ who they want close to them and provide them the dignity of living at home.
Your “what might be” is going to absolutely disrupt the “real” lives of the “best coal miners” in the world. It  will “paralyze investment with uncertainty” --- when this state and this nation are “crying for economic expansion and growth.” That is “reality.”
And taken to the next level, no business – no development -- no factory --- and no city treatment plant is safe from the “bullish” hand of your agency. Their “water permit” could be the next one --- gone tomorrow – on a “whim”  --- no matter when it was issued
So yes --- “we’re concerned” and you’ll hear that tonight because we all “go home” and “hope” we have a job in the morning while you go back to Philadelphia and may never see these people again
That is not “environmental justice!” It’s “injustice” and it’s “simply not right!”
We ask you to put people first.