Federal, Ky. agencies coordinate water permits for coal mines

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Louisville, Ky., said that a new document describing the handling of Clean Water Act permit applications for coal projects, called the Kentucky Pre-Application Coordination Process, is now ready.

This document is the result of coordination with an inter-agency workgroup of representatives from the Kentucky Department for Natural Resources, Kentucky Division of Water, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Resources, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Corps.

“The purpose of the document is to reduce the cumulative time required for review of permit applications for the various permits required for coal mining activities (Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and Clean Water Act Section 402 and Section 404 permits and Section 401 Water Quality Certification); Eliminate unnecessary re-design and re-review of mine plans by discussing alternatives and avoidance/minimization measures and identifying regulatory requirements up front; Consolidate pre-permitting sampling and analysis efforts to reduce time and expense to the applicant; Identify critical resources or other features that would require further characterization (surveys, documentation) or special consideration in the mine plan; and Assure consistency of information provided to all agencies to avoid approval of conflicting plans,” the Corps noted in an April 18 posting to its website.

Clean Water Act permitting for the coal industry, particularly in Central Appalachia, has gotten very complicated in recent years due to ever-changing permit standards forced by numerous environmental group lawsuits and a get-tough approach by the EPA under the Obama Administration.

One of the important tools discussed in the document is the availability of pre-application meetings to discuss potential projects with the agencies. At a pre-application meeting, the applicant introduces conceptual project plans, and the agencies offer advice on procedural aspects of the permit application and review process. The agencies would also clarify the specific site analyses necessary for each agency to thoroughly and quickly review applicable permit applications consistent with each agency’s respective regulatory roles and responsibilities.

The pre-application meetings should significantly enhance the efficiency of the permit application process, provide for synoptic collection of necessary site information, and minimize requests for additional information from the agencies during the permit application review process, the Corps noted. The next pre-application meetings are being scheduled for June 19.

Also, the Louisville Corps office on April 18 released a list of three individual permits it issued in March under Section 404, with the only coal permit going to Armstrong Coal on March 12 for an unnamed strip mine project in Ohio County, Ky.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.