Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | October 7, 2009

Kentucky environmental attorney Sanders says USACE holding public hearings on two proposals affecting Nationwide Permits for coal mining, including one in Kentucky on October 13 at Pikeville.

USACE is going to hold public meetings on two proposals for Nationwide Permits under Clean Water Act for coal mining.

USACE is going to hold public meetings on two proposals for Nationwide Permits under Clean Water Act for coal mining.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will hold six public hearings on Oct. 13 and 15 to receive public comments on the two proposals related to the use of Nationwide Permit (NWP) 21 in the nation’s Appalachian region. NWP 21 authorizes discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States for surface coal mining activities.

The first proposal is to modify NWP 21 to prohibit its use in the Appalachian region. In the absence of NWP 21, an applicant would be required to obtain an individual permit for surface coal mining projects. An individual permit includes increased public and agency involvement in the permit review process, including an opportunity for public comment on individual projects.

The second proposal is to suspend NWP 21 while the Corps evaluates the comments received on the proposed modification of NWP 21, and reaches its decision. The decision on whether to suspend NWP 21 will be made after the public hearings are held and the comments received on the proposed suspension have been considered. If NWP 21 is suspended during this interim period, an applicant would be required to obtain an individual permit for surface coal mining projects.

A public notice to solicit comments on the proposals was published in the July 15, 2009 Federal Register, http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-16803.pdf. In response to that notice, the Corps received several requests to hold public hearings on the proposals. Based on these requests, the Corps determined that hearings would provide additional information to assist in reaching decisions on the two proposals.

The agency decided that one hearing will be held in each of the six states affected by the two proposals. The states include: West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia.

The hearings will be open to the public and held on the following dates and at the following locations:

•West Virginia: A public hearing will be held Oct. 13, 2009, in Charleston, W.Va. at the Charleston Civic Center, Little Theatre. Hosted by the Huntington District, the public hearing will start at 7:00 p.m. Additional information on this public hearing will be available at: http://www.lrh.usace.army.mil/permits/publicnotices/wv/.

•Kentucky: A public hearing will be held Oct. 13, 2009, in Pikeville, Ky. at the East Kentucky Expo Center. Hosted by the Louisville District, the public hearing will start at 7:00 p.m. Additional information on this public hearing will be available at: http://www.lrl.usace.army.mil/.

•Tennessee: A public hearing will be held Oct. 13, 2009, in Knoxville, Tenn. Hosted by the Nashville District, the public hearing will start at 7:00 p.m. Additional information on this public hearing will be available at: http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/cof/special_notices.htm.

•Pennsylvania: A public hearing will be held Oct. 15, 2009, in Pittsburgh, Pa. Hosted by the Pittsburgh District, the public hearing will start at 7:00 p.m. Additional information on this public hearing will be available at: http://www.lrp.usace.army.mil/or/or-f/public_notice.htm.

•Ohio: A public hearing will be Oct. 15, 2009, in Cambridge, Ohio at the Pritchard Laughlin Civic Center. Hosted by the Huntington District, the public hearing will start at 7:00 p.m. Additional information on this public hearing will be available at: http://www.lrh.usace.army.mil/permits/publicnotices/oh/.

•Virginia: A public hearing will be held Oct. 15, 2009, in Big Stone Gap, Va. at Mountain Empire Community College. Hosted by the Norfolk District, the public hearing will start at 7:00 p.m. Additional information on this public hearing will be available at: http://www.nao.usace.army.mil/technical%20services/Regulatory%20branch/PN/PN.asp.

Specific information for each public hearing, including the addresses of the hearing locations, will be posted on the district Web sites listed above. A public notice announcing the hearings was published in the Sept. 10, 2009 Federal Register, http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-21792.pdf

Written comments on the two proposals will be accepted through Oct. 26, 2009 to supplement the hearing records. Written comments may be submitted at the public hearings or at the federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov under docket number COE-2009-0032; or mailed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Attn: CECW-CO (Attn: Ms. Desiree Hann), 441 G. Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20314. Email or faxed comments will not be accepted.

The use of NWP 21 for surface coal mining activities in other regions of the country is not affected by these proposals.

The Corps’ decision to issue the two proposals resulted from the June 11, 2009 interagency action plan, which is part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Corps, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agencies agreed to work together to reduce the adverse environmental impacts of surface coal mining activities in the Appalachian region. A copy of the MOU is available at: http://www.usace.army.mil/CECW/Pages/moumoas.aspx.

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