CONSOL wants to mine 16 million tons of coal at the site over a 14-year period. Part of its post-mining land use plan involves construction of a portion of the King Coal Highway on mined-out areas. Local officials also say the mining would provide large areas of flattened land that could be used for economic development.
Developers had hoped that by including the 2,300-acre mining permit in the road proposal they would actually reduce environmental impacts by combining the project footprints. The proposal would also save taxpayers about $110 million.
EPA officials hired a mining engineer to examine the project and proposed changes that the agency said would involve fewer valley fills and lesser stream impacts.
But with a cursory review, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Highway Administration -- which conduced the most recent environmental study of the project -- concluded the EPA proposal wasn't practical, wouldn't fit in with the area's land use plans, and did not comply with some state mine reclamation rules.
In its new letter, EPA expressed concern that the corps and the highway administration declined to even include the EPA proposal among the alternatives that were more fully examined in the latest study.
EPA said that its proposal could have served "as a useful point of reference as you assess alternatives to the applicant's proposed mine plan."
"We are concerned that this limited analysis does not recognize that there are likely additional practicable alternatives that can meet the stated project purpose while more effectively avoiding and minimizing anticipated significant adverse environmental impacts," the EPA said. "We expect that a broader look at feasible alternatives may find that such development is possible while reducing anticipated impacts to the environment and human health."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.