"Overburden material, in excess of that which is proposed to be placed on top of the mined area, is proposed to be deposited in four large valley fills," Maslany wrote. "These proposed fills and associated instream sedimentation ponds will cover main stream channels of about one mile each in White Oak Branch, Old House Branch and Right Fork of Seng Camp Creek, and in about one and two-thirds mile of Pigeonroost Branch."
Maslany wrote that the mine and its valley fills would violate state and federal water quality protection rules.
Under the federal Clean Water Act, EPA can prohibit the state from issuing water pollution permits for strip mines if the federal agency believes the permits do not adequately protect the environment.
In his letter, Maslany outlined two conditions under which EPA would consider withdrawing its objection to the Spruce Mine permit:
- Hobet must prove it is not possible to mine the coal in question without building the valley fill waste piles.
EPA suggested the company consider alternatives to mountaintop removal mining, such as underground mining or other types of surface mining. EPA also proposed Hobet consider ways to pile more of the overburden back on the mined-out areas, instead of dumping it in creeks.
- Hobet must submit a plan that EPA believes would provide adequate mitigation for streams lost to the mine's valley fills. EPA believes the state's new mitigation law, signed by Gov. Cecil Underwood, does not provide for adequate mitigation.
Under the legislation, most valley fills could be permitted without any mitigation requirements.
Maslany also wrote that EPA "remains concerned it lacks sufficient information to evaluate the potential impacts on aquatic life and habitat presented by the proposed facility and associated discharges."
Hobet Mining, Maslany wrote, must establish to EPA's satisfaction that "the proposed project will not cause significant degradation to the environment on a cumulative basis relating to other existing or reasonably foreseeable future valley fill activities in the region."