INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Two environmental groups have asked the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers to reject a permit Peabody Energy Corp. needs to expand one of
its Indiana coal mines, arguing that the company hasn’t fully assessed the
project’s environmental impacts.
The Sierra Club and Hoosier Environmental Council said in objections filed
Monday with the Army Corps during a public comment period on Peabody
Energy’s permit request that the company’s planned expansion of its
Somerville mine would destroy local streams and worsen water pollution in
southwestern Indiana with coal waste runoff.
Peabody needs a federal permit under the Clean Water Act so that it can fill
in nearly 16 miles of local streams as well as wetlands to open up more than
1,700 acres in Gibson County for surface mining, where surface vegetation,
soils and rock are removed and underlying coal is dug or blasted away.
The two environmental groups contend that St. Louis-based Peabody has failed
in its permit request to provide information on aquatic wildlife, such as
frogs, snakes and fish, living in the streams it wants to fill in and hasn’t
assessed how those waterways function in the local environment.
Without those and other details, the groups said Peabody cannot properly
restore the area’s habitat following mining, as is required under federal
law. Peabody has proposed replacing the streams it will fill in with new
man-made channels and taking other mitigation steps.
“The near total failure to provide any study of the existing groundwater
resources at the site - including how those resources interact with surface
streams - makes it all but impossible for the Army Corps to predict how
recreated surface streams would function,” Kim Ferraro, the Hoosier
Environmental Council’s staff attorney, said in a statement.
Bowden Quinn, conservation director for the Sierra Club’s Hoosier Chapter,
said Peabody’s proposal to remove streams in the proposed mining site would
inflict “irreversible harm” on local waterways and increase downstream water
pollution as coal waste that can include heavy metals such as mercury and
arsenic washes downstream.
Peabody Energy spokeswoman Meg Gallagher said in a statement that the
company looks forward to “to an efficient and timely review” of its permit
request to expand the Somerville mine.
“The mine has an excellent record of environmental compliance, and the
permit ensures continued environmental quality standards are met,” Gallagher
said in a statement.
The Army Corps of Engineers could take several months before it reaches a
on Peabody Energy’s permit request, said Mike Ricketts, chief of the west
regulatory branch for the Corps’ Louisville district.