U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Hearings on Proposal to Suspend
Nationwide Permit 21
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is holding a series of public hearings on Oct. 13 and Oct. 15 regarding the Corps’ proposal to eliminate the use of the nationwide permit for coal mining (NWP 21) in the Appalachian region.
We should use the hearings as an opportunity to comment on the importance of NWP 21 to the mining industry, and on the importance of coal mining to the region and to the United States as a source of reliable, affordable and secure energy.
Coal mining operations rely on the ability to obtain NWP 21 permits in order to produce affordable coal-based electricity and to maintain and create thousands of high paying jobs throughout the eastern United States. The Corps relies on the ability to issue nationwide permits as a means for managing its workload. The Corps now proposes to eliminate use of these important permits having provided no scientific reason for why such a drastic step is necessary and without giving the public any information about how the Corps will absorb the increased burden on a regulatory program that is already backlogged by more than 250 coal related permits. The economic consequences will be significant on the industry and those communities that rely on the jobs and economic activity that flow from these projects.
Talking Points Provided by Friends of Coal:
More than 80,000 jobs depend on surface coal mining in Appalachia.
Coal mining is the economic engine of communities throughout Appalachia.
Jobs and communities that depend on coal mining rely on a permitting system that works—without unnecessary delay or complications.
With more than 250 coal permits backlogged at the Corps, some for two years, the Corps proposes to eliminate one regulatory tool explicitly designed to avoid regulatory duplication and unnecessary delays. The Corps has failed to provide a plan for how the agency will handle the increased regulatory burden. The Corps is simply not equipped to handle the increased workload that will result should NWP 21 be abandoned.
The Corps has provided no scientific or environmental justification for eliminating the use of NWP 21. The Corps has provided us with no evidence of environmental damage or other public interest reason for expiring the permit within these six states, therefore, it appears the decision is driven by politics and not based on any tangible concern with environmental protection.
The proposal to end NWP 21 is just one more roadblock or barrier the federal government is putting in the path of coal mining in Appalachia. It’s one more contributor to the regulatory black hole coal mining is in today.
This new assault on Appalachian coal mining makes the region less attractive to investment—further threatening the long-term economic future of the region.
NWP 21 is the only nationwide permit, designed with another fully developed federal regulatory program under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), to ensure mining impacts are minimized.
Federal courts have upheld NWP 21 as legally sound and consistent with Congress‘ directive that the regulatory agencies should work together to avoid duplication in regulation.
The Corps has long recognized that “the purpose of the NWP program is to reduce regulatory delays and burdens on the public, to place greater reliance on state and local controls, and to free our limited resources for more effective regulation of other activities with greater potential to adversely impact the aquatic environment.” 56 Fed. Reg. 14, 598—14, 605 (Apr. 10, 1991).