Federal regulators will take a closer look at nearly 50 requests for surface coal-mining permits in Eastern Kentucky because of the potential for the operations to hurt water quality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday morning.
The permits are among 79 in four Appalachian states slated for extra review.
The EPA will review the permits in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, said the enhanced reviews are frustrating and causing a lot of uncertainty in the industry. Ultimately, the agency's decision could harm Appalachia's economy, he said, noting 6,000 miners work at Kentucky surface mines.
"There is going to be economic impact in Appalachia on mining," Caylor said.
Environmentalists complained during the Bush administration that the corps and EPA didn't do enough to require coal companies to protect water quality during mountaintop mining. Opponents of mountaintop mining consider the more detailed permit reviews a victory.
The reviews could prompt changes in the proposed permits to protect water quality. Permits could be denied.
Coal operators don't know what to expect of the extra reviews or how much time the process will take, Caylor said.
For some permits, the additional review adds to delays of about a year that have already occurred because of lawsuits, he said. Without the holdup, the permits were ready to be released.
Read more at Kentucky.com