In Tennessee, federal mining regulators won't issue a strip-mine permit if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency objects to the mine's water pollution permit.
In West Virginia, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining has allowed the state Division of Environmental Protection to issue the state's largest mountaintop-removal mine permit - even though the EPA has objected to the mine's water permit.
The OSM runs the state Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act regulatory program in Tennessee.
Beverly Brock, supervisor of the technical section of OSM's Knoxville, Tenn., office, said her staff would not approve a strip-mine permit if the EPA objected to the related water pollution permit.
"We would not, because they would not be able to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act," Brock said Friday. "We would suspend the processing of that permit."
Under federal law, strip mines must receive two permits: a mining permit issued under the surface mining law, and a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit issued under the federal Clean Water Act.
Generally, states issue both permits themselves. The OSM is supposed to make sure mining permits are properly issued by states; the EPA is supposed to make sure NPDES permits are properly issued by states.
EPA Region III Administrator Michael McCabe has objected to the state DEP issuing a 5-square-mile mountaintop-removal permit to expand Arch Coal Inc.'s Dal-Tex complex near Blair in Logan County.
McCabe says he will not allow the permit to be issued until he is sure that it will comply with the Clean Water Act. McCabe says the company and the DEP haven't provided enough information to convince him and his staff.
Last week, DEP Director Michael Miano issued a mining permit for the Arch Coal proposal anyway.
Miano said he issued the permit because Arch Coal promised to lay off up to 400 workers, starting on Dec. 31, if he did not. Miano said the EPA has taken too long to review the permit. He called the delays "criminal," and said his office believes the permit meets the legal requirements.
Today, Chief U.S. District Judge Charles Haden II will hear arguments on whether he should rescind the permit Miano issued.