EPA Region III Administrator W. Michael McCabe said his staff is taking a hard look at the long-term environmental impacts of mountaintop removal mines. McCabe said he won't allow permits for new mines until he's convinced the effects are being minimized.
"The magnitude of these things is just amazing," McCabe said in a Washington Post interview published Aug. 31.
"When you consider how many miles of streams have been filled in - more than 450 - this is clearly something we've got to address," McCabe said.
James Weekley, who lives in the path of the Arch Coal mine proposed for Pigeonroost Branch near Blair, was among the citizens who asked EPA for the public hearing.
"What percentage of the streams in our watershed have already been filled?" Weekley's lawyer, Joe Lovett, wrote in an Aug. 28 letter.
"At the current rate of mining, what percentage of the streams in the watershed will have been filled in 10 years? Twenty years? What effects will this have on the streams," Lovett asked.
"What will be the long-term effects of the fills on the communities that use these streams?" Lovett wrote. "What will be the long-term effects of the valley fills on the economy of the region?"
Under EPA regulations, the agency can hold a public hearing on any water pollution permit if objects to if a member of the public or a state agency involved asks for the hearing.
In his letter to DEP water chief Barb Taylor, Maslany wrote that EPA would give 30 days public notice of the scheduled hearing date.