WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday put the brakes on the largest mountaintop coal mining operation ever permitted in the Appalachian region, the first time in 37 years that the agency has used its power to hold up an already authorized project.
The EPA told the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that it was taking the unusual step because of the magnitude of potential environmental damage, including the burial of more than seven miles of streams. The Corps issues permits, but the EPA has the power to veto those permits. The EPA has never before rescinded a previously issued permit.
The EPA said that the action begins a new review process that could
lead the agency to restrict or prohibit mining at the site. Mountaintop
mining involves blasting off the tops of mountains to get at the coal
seams underneath. The mountaintops are remade with rubble created from
the explosion, though debris also trickles into valleys, threatening
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