Read the report here.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia coal operators continue to obtain permits to strip mine more of West Virginia's hills and hollows than they reclaim, according to the latest figures from the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.
In its yearly review of West Virginia's strip mine regulatory program, the OSM reported that nearly 305,000 acres -- an area larger than Logan County -- were under permit by mining operators as of the end of June 2010. That's a slight increase over 302,000 as of June 2009.
Mine operators received permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection for nearly 9,500 acres of new mining, compared to 6,400 acres of mine sites that reached final reclamation by the end of the period examined by the OSM.
The 80-page report, published this week, provides a wealth of statistics about strip mining in West Virginia, updates on OSM review of various problem spots in DEP's programs, and a long list of lawsuits challenging industry and agency practices.
Among other things, the annual report revealed the findings of a new OSM review that found problems in the way DEP officials sometimes allow more significant permit changes to be approved through a streamlined process for "incidental boundary revisions," or smaller changes in permitted mine areas.
The OSM also detailed its continuing concerns about staffing levels within the DEP's Division of Mining and Reclamation.
The DEP listed 268 full-time equivalent positions, but had 33 vacancies.