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Obama Administration Takes Unprecedented Steps to Reduce Environmental Impacts of Mountaintop Coal Mining, Announces Interagency Action Plan to Implement Reforms: Federal agencies take coordinated action to strengthen oversight and regulation, minimize adverse environmental consequences of mountaintop coal mining

Release Date: 06/11/2009
Contact Information: Christine Glunz (CEQ): (202) 456-3469; Kendra Barkoff (DOI): (202) 208-6416; Adora Andy (EPA): (202) 564-2715; Gene Pawlik (USACE): (202) 761-4715

WASHINGTON – Obama Administration officials announced today that they are taking
unprecedented steps to reduce the environmental impacts of mountaintop coal mining in the six
Appalachian states of Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West
Virginia through a coordinated approach between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
Department of the Interior (DOI) and Army Corps of Engineers.

Through a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator of the
Environmental Protection Agency; Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior; and Terrence “Rock” Salt,
Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, the Administration will implement an
Interagency Action Plan on mountaintop coal mining that will:

- Minimize the adverse environmental consequences of mountaintop coal mining through
short-term actions to be completed in 2009;
- Undertake longer-term actions to tighten the regulation of mountaintop coal mining;
- Ensure coordinated and stringent environmental reviews of permit applications under the
Clean Water Act (CWA) and Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1997
(SMCRA);
- Engage the public through outreach events in the Appalachian region to help inform the
development of Federal policy; and
- Federal Agencies will work in coordination with appropriate regional, state, and local entities
to help diversify and strengthen the Appalachian regional economy and promote the health
and welfare of Appalachian communities.

“Mountaintop coal mining cannot be predicated on the assumption of minimal oversight of its
environmental impacts, and its permanent degradation of water quality. Stronger reviews and
protections will safeguard the health of local waters, and thousands of acres of watersheds in
Appalachia,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Our announcement today reaffirms EPA's
fundamental responsibility for protecting the water quality and environmental integrity of streams,
rivers, and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. Getting this right is important to coalfield
communities that count on a livable environment, both during mining and after coal companies move
to other sites.”

“The Army is pleased to support interagency efforts to increase environmental protection
requirements and factual considerations for mountaintop coal mining activities in Appalachia,” said
Terrence “Rock” Salt, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. “The initiative being
announced today will allow us to move forward on a number of important permit applications while
providing improved certainty and transparency to permit applicants and the public.”

“The steps we are taking today are a firm departure from the previous Administration's approach to
mountaintop coal mining, which failed to protect our communities, water, and wildlife in
Appalachia,” said Secretary Salazar. “By toughening enforcement standards, by looking for
common-sense improvements to our rules and regulations, and by coordinating our efforts with other
agencies, we will immediately make progress toward reducing the environmental impacts of
mountaintop coal mining.”

“This agreement represents federal agencies working together to take the President’s message on
mountaintop coal mining into action,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on
Environmental Quality. “We are committed to powering our country while protecting health and
welfare in the Appalachian region, securing access to clean streams and safe drinking water, and
honoring our clean water laws.”

In close coordination, EPA, DOI, and the Corps will take several short-term actions to reform the
regulation of mountaintop coal mining under the two primary environmental laws governing this
mining practice.

The Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency will take immediate steps
under the CWA to minimize environmental harm by taking the following actions in 2009:
- Requiring more stringent environmental reviews for future permit applications for
mountaintop coal mining;
- Within 30 days of the date of the MOU, the Corps will issue a public notice
(pursuant to 33 C.F.R. 330.5) proposing to modify Nationwide Permit (NWP) 21 to
preclude its use to authorize the discharge of fill material into streams for surface
coal mining activities in the Appalachian region, and will seek public comment on
the proposed action;
- Strengthening permit reviews under CWA regulations (Section 404(b)(1)) to reduce the
harmful direct and cumulative environmental impacts of mountaintop coal mining on streams
and watersheds;
- Strengthening EPA coordination with states on water pollution permits for discharges from
valley fills and state water quality certifications for mountaintop coal mining operations; and
- Improving stream mitigation projects to increase ecological performance and compensate for
losses of these important waters of the United States.

The Department of Interior will also take the following steps:
- Reevaluate and determine how the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
(OSM) will more effectively conduct oversight of state permitting, state enforcement, and
regulatory activities under SMCRA;
- Ensure the protection of wildlife resources and endangered species by coordinating the
development of CWA guidance with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS); and
- If the U.S. District Court vacates the 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule, as requested by the
Secretary of the Interior on April 27, 2009, Interior will issue guidance clarifying the
application of stream buffer zone provisions in a preexisting 1983 SMCRA regulation to
ensure mining activities will occur in a more environmentally protective way in or near
Appalachian streams.

Concurrent with these short-term actions, the three agencies will embark on a comprehensive,
coordinated review of their existing respective regulations and procedures governing mountaintop
coal mining under existing law. The agencies will also create an interagency working group to
promote ongoing Federal collaboration and ensure the Action Plan achieves results. As these
reforms are implemented, the agencies will seek to involve the public and guide Federal actions
through robust public comment and outreach.

EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are today taking steps to enhance coordination in the
environmental review of pending Clean Water Act permits for surface coal mining activities in
Appalachian States. Administrator Jackson and Acting Assistant Secretary Salt have directed EPA
and Corps field offices to coordinate under new procedures to ensure Clean Water Act permit
decisions are fully consistent with sound science and the law, reduce adverse environmental impacts,
provide greater public participation and transparency, and address pending permits in a more timely
manner.

The Federal agencies will also work in coordination with appropriate regional, state, and local
entities to help diversify and strengthen the Appalachian regional economy and promote the health
and welfare of Appalachian communities. This interagency effort will have a special focus on
stimulating clean enterprise and green jobs development, encouraging better coordination among
existing federal efforts, and supporting innovative new ideas and initiatives.


More information on the Memorandum of Agreement: http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/guidance/mining.html