The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Breaking News

Latest News

April 26, 2013

Group says fear of EPA power use unfounded

Sierra Club notes agency used veto retroactively 3 times since 1972

— An environmental group says fears advanced by an industry leader and members of West Virginia’s delegation in Congress that this week’s ruling on the Spruce No. 1 mine will trigger more retroactive permit cancellations are unfounded.

In its edict, the federal appeals court held that the Environmental Protection Agency acted properly in yanking a permit for the St. Louis-based Arch Coal in Logan County after it had been issued.

Almost immediately, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, suggested a domino effect would result, with the EPA revisiting other approved permits and pulling them on grounds of safeguarding sources of water.

Yet, Ed Hopkins, representing the Sierra Club in the nation’s capital, said historically the EPA’s use of the ability to cancel permits has been extremely limited.

“The EPA has used its veto authority over (Army) Corps-issued 404 permits sparingly — just 13 times since 1972 under both Republican and Democratic administrations,” Hopkins told The Register-Herald.

“On only three occasions, including Spruce, did it do so retroactively. It’s entirely speculative and contrary to 40 years of experience to suggest that the EPA is suddenly going to start using this authority indiscriminately.”

Rahall denounced the court decision and warned that it would “open the floodgates” to similar decisions, disrupting coal production across the industry.

Agreeing with this assessment, Raney said the industry has been coming to terms with environmental authorities in West Virginia, and now the court’s ruling would hurt progress in getting the permitting process improved so that there is a sense of predictability.

What’s more, Rahall vowed to resurrect an old bill known as the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act to bar EPA from using “the guise of clean water as a means to disrupt coal mining.”

Earlier, a lower federal court had ruled that the EPA had overstepped its authority with regard to the mountaintop mining permit originally issued for Spruce No. 1.

Hopkins said the EPA doesn’t have carte blanche to veto coal permits, however.

In fact, the Sierra Club spokesman said, it can only do so when it ascertains that the release of materials would cause  “an unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas (including spawning and breeding areas), wildlife or recreational areas.”

“EPA exhaustively documented the effects that the Spruce mine would have had, and we’re confident that its analysis will withstand judicial scrutiny,” Hopkins added.

— E-mail:

Text Only
Latest News
  • Alpha announces intention to lay off 1,100 surface miners

    The announcement dealt another blow to Appalachia's iconic, but dwindling, fossil fuel industry. The company said 2015 industry forecasts show Central Appalachian coal production will be less than half of its 2009 output. It's due to a combination of familiar factors, Alpha said: competition from cheaper natural gas, weak domestic and international markets and low coal prices.


    July 31, 2014

  • Justice mines have violations in 5 states

    A West Virginia coal billionaire has more than 250 pending violations at mining operations in Kentucky and four other states.

    July 31, 2014

  • VA Greenbrier clinic to remain closed

    The Department of Veterans Affairs Greenbrier County Community Based Outpatient Clinic will remain closed due to ongoing correction of environmental concerns. 

    July 31, 2014

  • prezarrested.jpg Protesters arrested at UMWA Rally in Pittsburgh

    After marching from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to the William S. Moorehead Federal Building in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, around 15 United Mine Workers of America (UMW) leaders were arrested.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • Mercer shooting sends one to hospital

     One person has been shot following an apparent altercation in the Montcalm area of Mercer County.

    July 31, 2014

  • UMWA1.jpg More than 5,000 protesting new EPA rules at rally

    Today, 73 buses will bring miners and UMW members to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for a labor rally and march through downtown Pittsburgh.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

  • Kroger restricts pseudoephedrine sales in state

    Supermarket chain Kroger is tightening monthly purchase limits of cold medications that contain pseudoephedrine at its West Virginia stores.

    July 31, 2014

  • ‘Biscuit guy’ makes his mark with anthem at TWV

    The old saying “being at the right place at the right time” couldn’t be more true for Calvin Alexander. Thanks to a salad dressing bottle (and some impressive vocal skills), Alexander was invited to sing the national anthem not once, but twice, at Theatre West Virginia before the opening of “Hatfields and McCoys."

    July 31, 2014

  • legion American Legion posts plan to merge

    To help deal with its decreasing membership numbers, Beckley American Legion Post 70 is planning a merger with Post 32. INCLUDES TOUT VIDEO.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • legal Tort reform group brings message to Beckley

    How can West Virginia create more jobs and have a better business climate, at no cost to taxpayers? Greg Thomas, executive director of the West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (WV CALA), says legal reform is one of the answers to that question.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo