State environmental protection Director Michael Miano on Wednesday issued the largest mountaintop removal permit in West Virginia history.
In doing so, Miano set up a legal showdown with environmental groups. At the same time, the state did not strengthen the permit to address concerns raised about it in legal challenges filed over the last six months.
Miano said the Division of Environmental Protection granted the 5-square-mile permit to Arch Coal Inc. because the company threatened to lay off up to 400 United Mine Workers if the agency didn't approve it.
"In the face of the announced potential layoffs, the governor and the DEP feel it is important for the state to do everything it can to move this process forward," Miano said.
During a news conference at DEP headquarters in Nitro, Miano criticized the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and other activists he said "would like to outlaw surface mining in this state."
"It is a position that I do not support and a position that will not result in an improved quality of life for the citizens of West Virginia," Miano said in prepared remarks.
"These federal agencies might believe that the minority media speaks with authority for the people of West Virginia on the mountaintop mining concerns in our state," he said. "I believe some in the media have tried to paint a one-sided picture of how mountaintop mining is conducted."
Hobet Mining Inc.
Name: Spruce No. 1 Mine
Location: Pigeonroost Hollow, Logan County
Expected production: 80 million tons over 15 years
Approximate original contour variance: No
Post-mining land use: Fish and wildlife habitat and recreation lands
Valley fills: Five fills that will store 150 million cubic yards of waste rock and earth. Fills will bury roughly 6 miles of streams.
The permit Miano issued Wednesday morning allows Arch Coal's Hobet Mining Inc. to expand its Dal-Tex mountaintop removal complex near Blair, Logan County.