Rep. Mark Critz, D-Pa., announced Jan. 13 that after months of negotiations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have reissued a five-year permit for the Cumberland longwall mine in Greene County, Pa.
The Cumberland mine, a major producer of steam coal out of the Pittsburgh coal seam, has been operating since 1975, and was acquired by Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE:ANR) in 2009. Five-year permit renewals are normally routine. In 2010, Alpha requested the addition of a new air shaft site at the mine, but because of water quality issues, the DEP was required to seek additional approval from the EPA. EPA objected to the water-related portion of the permit and for months the permit was stalled between DEP and EPA. Alpha approached Critz to help with the situation, the Critz statement said.
“I’m thrilled that after months of delayed negotiations, the permit for the Cumberland mine was finally reissued,” said Critz. “This mine is critically important to the economy of Greene County, to the 700 UMWA employees and their families, and to our nation’s continued pursuit of energy independence.”
“We are pleased that this issue has finally been resolved,” said Commissioner Pam Snyder, chair of the Greene County Board of Commissioners. “The permitting process was delayed for far too long and left potentially hundreds of employees’ jobs hanging in the balance.”
“Without the permit approval for the Cumberland mine, this would have been catastrophic to our 700 workers,” said Edward Yankovich, Jr., International District 2 Vice-President, United Mine Workers of America. “Thanks to the diligence of Congressman Critz, these jobs continue to be secured.”
Cumberland, and Alpha’s nearby Emerald mine, are both big, UMWA-represented longwall operations. Cumberland produced 6.2 million tons in 2011, up from 5.8 million tons in 2010, according to U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data. Alpha has for some time been working on a new longwall mine in the Pittsburgh seam in this same area, called Foundation, that will eventually replace both of the existing mines. Foundation, to be developed later this decade, would produce up to 14 million tons per year and has enough reserves for 30 years of life at that peak production level.