But EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson didn't show up. Agency spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said short notice of the hearing prevented Jackson from appearing. Formal notice of the hearing was issued May 23, and Jackson's schedule indicated she was at a science festival in New York on Friday.
Also not attending the hearing were Jo-Ellen Darcy, head of the Army Corps of Engineers, and Jeff Pizarchik, director of the U.S. Office of Surface Mining.
OSM spokesman Chris Holmes said Pizarchik did not attend because OSM had no role in the permit issuance or veto. A corps spokesman did not respond to a request for comment about why Darcy did not attend.
Environmental groups have been trying to stop the Spruce Mine since 1998, when it was first proposed as a 3,113-acre extension of Arch's Dal-Tex Mine that would have buried more than 10 miles of streams.
At issue now is the permit, approved by the corps in January 2007, for a scaled-back version, a 2,300-acre operation that would bury more than seven miles of streams. The mine eventually would employ 250 workers and mine about 44 million tons of coal over about 15 years.
In January 2011, EPA vetoed the permit, citing "destructive and unsustainable mining practices that jeopardize the health of Appalachian communities and the clean water on which they depend." A report prepared for EPA by a mining engineering firm found Arch could have reduced environmental impacts without significantly increasing mining costs.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson had ruled that EPA is not authorized to withdraw a Clean Water Act "dredge-and-fill" permit that was already issued by the federal Army Corps of Engineers.
EPA has appealed, and Arch Coal has agreed not to pursue mining operations until the appeal is heard.Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.