04/25/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

EPA Mountaintop Mining Backtrack: Permits NOT Frozen

Now I'm disappointed and more than a little confused by EPA's "clarifying" statement issued this evening. Based on this, it appears that EPA is taking a positive step forward -- but it's a more of a baby step. To wit:

The Environmental Protection Agency is not halting, holding or placing a moratorium on any of the mining permit applications. Plain and simple. EPA has issued comments on two pending permit applications to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expressing serious concerns about the need to reduce the potential harmful impacts on water quality. EPA will take a close look at other permits that have been held back because of the 4th Circuit litigation. We fully anticipate that the bulk of these pending permit applications will not raise environmental concerns. In cases where a permit does raise environmental concerns, we will work expeditiously with the Army Corps of Engineers to determine how these concerns can be addressed. EPA's submission of comments to the Corps on draft permits is a well-established procedure under the Clean Water Act to assure that environmental considerations are addressed in the permitting process.

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