A new Clay County mining permit approved last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is riddled with serious errors, according to an internal government report.
Engineers and other experts from the federal Office of Surface Mining found that the Vandalia Resources permit didn't comply with state and federal water quality rules, according to the report.
OSM officials concluded that the state Division of Environmental Protection did not adequately study how the Vandalia permit and other mining in the area will affect water quality.
In a 50-page report, OSM said that a cumulative hydrologic impact report, or CHIA, prepared by DEP "did not address the impacts of multiple operations on a larger scale than just the permit area, as required by the regulations."
Roger Calhoun, director of the Charleston OSM field office, said the report found that the Vandalia permit was deficient in a variety of ways. But, Calhoun said, OSM has no plans to make DEP do anything about it.
"We looked at that permit in trying to explain to both myself and the DEP folks what we would do different and might ask for differently in state permits if we were actually looking at the permits," Calhoun said.
Calhoun said OSM wants DEP to make changes in its permitting process over the long-term, but doesn't plan to force improvements in the Vandalia mine.
"On that particular permit, I don't know of improvements the state might make," he said. "I don't intend to make the state do anything more on Vandalia."
Lewis Halstead, assistant chief for permitting at the DEP mining office, said the agency is still reviewing the OSM report.
"We are taking steps to rectify some of those things," Halstead said.
The Vandalia permit was issued just a week after federal regulators were called on the carpet by Sen. Robert C. Byrd and Rep. Nick Rahall, both D-W.Va., for being too slow to release mining permits in the state.
Vandalia, a Pittston Coal subsidiary, already operates a mining complex on a 640-acre permit in the Bickmore area, near the Clay-Nicholas County line. About 230 miners produce 2.8 million tons of coal a year for nonunion Vandalia.