Shortly after taking office in 2009, the Obama EPA began more rigorous reviews of Clean Water Act permits for mining operations and earlier this year published guidelines aimed at reducing pollution that causes dangerous increases in stream conductivity below valley fills.
Appalachian political leaders, including Democrats West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Nick Rahall have blasted EPA's actions, but that hasn't stopped Republican opponents of Manchin and Rahall from trying to paint both as being part of what the industry calls Obama's "war on coal."
EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has said her agency's efforts are "not about ending coal mining," but "about ending coal mining pollution."
In its draft report, the Science Advisory Board panel said it agrees with EPA's conclusions "that there is strong evidence" that valley fills are harming downstream water quality and damaging aquatic life.
But, the panel also cautioned that electrical conductivity and total dissolved solids, or TDS, are "relative coarse indicators of water quality" and that EPA should "consider developing a more robust characterization" of water impacts downstream from mining operations.
The panel said EPA should more closely study impacts on aquatic life, and put more emphasis on the effects of selenium runoff from mining operations.
Read the report: http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.