Corps works on review process for mining near Blair Mountain

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Huntington, W.Va., said in a July 12 notice that it working with coal companies, and is seeking outside parties to help out with that work, on the development of a Programmatic Agreement (PA) for the Blair Mountain historical site in Logan County. W.Va.

The PA would govern the implementation of the Corps’ responsibilities under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) for undertakings that may affect the Blair Mountain Battlefield, a historic property. Various environmental and historic groups have battled for years to keep coal mining, particularly strip coal mining, away from the battlefield, which was the site of a bloody 1921 clash between coal labor union supporters, coal company enforcers and federal troops.

The scope of the proposed PA would be limited to requests for Department of the Army (DA) authorizations submitted by the three applicants for projects that would be subject to the Corps’ regulatory authorities under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act (RHA) of 1899 and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Those applicants are coal landholding company WPP LLC, Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR) subsidiary Aracoma Coal and Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI) subsidiary Mingo Logan Coal.

The Corps is directed by Congress under Section 10 of the RHA of 1899 to regulate all work or structures in or affecting the course, condition or capacity of navigable waters of the U.S. The Corps is directed by Congress under Section 404 of the CWA to regulate the discharge of dredged and fill material into all waters of the U.S., including wetlands.

Section 106 of the NHPA requires Federal agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties.

The Blair Mountain Battlefield is an approximate 1,700-acre district located in Logan County. The Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places has determined it is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The coal company applicants have requested the Corps negotiate a PA for activities that meet all three of the following criteria:

  • the activity is proposed by one or more of the applicants;
  • the activity would require DA authorization; and
  • the activity may affect the Blair Mountain Battlefield. 

The PA would describe the procedures that would be followed to implement Section 106 of the NHPA for any Corps undertaking that meets all three of the criteria listed above. The purpose of the PA would be to establish a program for consultation, review and compliance with Section 106 of the NHPA when agreed upon criteria are met and procedures are followed. 

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.