Federal regulators demanded Tuesday that Arch Coal Inc. consider alternatives to filling in more than four miles of streams to dispose of waste from the largest strip mine ever proposed in West Virginia.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued more specific objections to the permit for Arch subsidiary Hobet Mining Inc.'s proposed Spruce Mine, a mountaintop removal operation near Blair in Logan County.
EPA said it will not allow the state Division of Environmental Protection to issue the permit until questions about the mine are answered.
"Hobet is the largest mine ever proposed in West Virginia," said W. Michael McCabe, administrator of EPA Region III. "It covers 5 square miles and has four valley fills, each a mile long.
"Before this permit can be issued, we need to answer questions about impacts on water quality, aquatic life and habitat in the area," McCabe said. "At this point, we simply don't have enough information about the environmental impacts."
DEP Director Michael Miano said his agency hopes to meet soon with the EPA to try to resolve the Hobet permit and other mountaintop removal issues.
David Todd, spokesman for Arch Coal, said, "The specific objections in the context of a large permit are not entirely unexpected."
"We have been cooperating and discussing our permit with EPA," Todd said. "We will continue to do that and believe those objections will be resolvable."
McCabe's press office released copies of a Tuesday letter from Tom Maslany, director of water protection for EPA Region III, to Barb Taylor, chief of the state DEP Office of Water Resources.
"The proposed surface mine includes excavation of more than 400 vertical feet of overburden rock to remove 10 seams of coal in a five-square mile region," Maslany wrote.