The corps notice says the mine would involve four valley fills that would bury three acres of streams with nearly 30 million cubic yards of waste rock and earth. About 43 percent of the rock and earth from the mine would go into valley fills, rather than back on mined-out areas to rebuild the mountains, corps records show.
"The decision of whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impact, including cumulative impacts of the proposed activity on the public interest," the corps notice said. "The benefit which reasonably may be expected to accrue from the proposal must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments."
Federal regulators are also being tight-lipped about what pending mining permits will be subject to the new review requirements included in the court settlement. Officials from various agencies have held numerous closed-door meetings to try to sort out which permits should be included.
The settlement states that all permits that include valley fills in streams that drain 250 acres will be subject to the requirements. It also says that any other permits that would have more than minimal impacts on the environment would be included. No one has defined what "minimal impacts" means.
In a report filed with Congress last week, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining said that it has a list of 38 surface mining permits pending before the state DEP.
The report said that 16 of those permits involve valley fills in streams that drain 250 acres or more. It said that six other permits may cause greater than minimal impact on the environment. Presumably, those 22 permits would have to undergo additional regulatory scrutiny under the court settlement.
In recent months, DEP officials have released various lists of pending permits, but none of those matched the numbers discussed in the OSM report.
Roger Calhoun, director of the OSM field office in Charleston, refused to release a copy of the agency's permit list or its preliminary findings about the permits.
"It's a preliminary list," Calhoun said. "It's still under review. We're not trying to keep it secret. We just want to work with the other agencies to sort this out."
DEP records, however, show that several huge surface mining permits have not been considered among those that would be subject to additional regulatory scrutiny.
Among those are a 1,364-acre permit requested by an A.T. Massey Coal subsidiary, and a 487-acre permit requested by Fola Coal Co., according to DEP records.
Gheen said last week that the discussions about which permits are covered by the settlement don't really matter. He said his agency would decide which mining proposals must receive individual permits when permit applications for those proposals are filed.