Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

EPA: Ind. Mine Needs Different Rules Coal Mine under Probe by Critics

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

EPA: Ind. Mine Needs Different Rules Coal Mine under Probe by Critics

Article excerpt

SULLIVAN, Ind. - Beginning this year, the Bear Run Mine in Southwestern Indiana will become the largest coal mine in the eastern United States, producing an expected 8 million to 12 million tons of coal annually. The mine also is a key piece in Gov. Mitch Daniels' strategy to make coal a viable industry in Indiana. But it was reported Bear Run also will be among the least regulated coal mines in the nation, saving its owner perhaps millions of dollars while raising the potential for putting Hoosiers and aquatic life at risk.

Critics, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, maintain the state should have required Bear Run to obtain an individual permit. To do that, Bear Run first would have had to thoroughly study the mine's wastewater and analyze nearby waterways. Based on that information, the state would have crafted a permit that set limits on water pollution and required its owner to test regularly for specific toxins.

The 27 largest mines in the U.S. are required to have such a permit. Bear Run is not. Instead, Indiana regulators only require the mine to follow the rules of a one-size-fits-all general permit, the same one that regulates the state's smallest mine.

Thomas Easterly, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said he thinks the protections are sufficient.

"If it meets the requirements" of a general permit, Easterly said, "then the environment's protected."

IDEM decides whether to require an individual permit.

Bear Run's owner, St. Louis-based Peabody Energy, thinks IDEM made the right decision. Peabody is the nation's largest coal company and is responsible for about half of the 36 million tons of coal mined annually in Indiana.

"Peabody has an excellent reputation for environmental stewardship," company spokeswoman Meg Gallagher wrote in an email response to the Star. "Bear Run is continuing with these standards."

One of the biggest critics of IDEM's decision is the EPA, which urged the state in a November 2010 letter to require Bear Run to file for an individual permit.

Without the wastewater analysis required by an individual permit, the EPA says, Indiana regulators can't know for sure what pollutants are coming out of the mine or how they would affect aquatic life in nearby rivers and streams. …

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