The Sierra Club on June 25 touted the fact that the Federal Highway Administration has announced that the Virginia Department of Transportation will need to conduct a full environmental review for a 26-mile section of the Coalfields Expressway that would run through three counties in southwest Virginia.
The project is controversial because it would continue a practice in Virginia, and in nearby West Virginia, to build new highway on sections that were first strip mined for coal, then reclaimed by the coal companies with the highway project contours in mind.
“VDOT fundamentally changed the route and the nature of this section of the Coalfields Expressway when it partnered with coal companies to allow mountaintop removal mining as part of the project and failed to prepare a comprehensive analysis of its impacts on the community,” the club said. “The environmental study that FHWA is requiring must evaluate the public health and environmental harms of the proposal and examine a full suite of alternatives.”
Three federal agencies – the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – urged FHWA and VDOT to prepare a comprehensive analysis that considers alternatives and evaluates the social, economic and environmental impacts of the mountaintop removal mining which is integral to the project, the club added.