On May 27 the Department of Environmental Protection wrote a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expressing concerns about NPDES mining permit reviews EPA was doing saying they only serve to increase permit review times and have "no environmental benefit."
DEP Secretary Michael Krancer said Pennsylvania's mining permit program has been held in high regard since 1984 and recognized for its excellence many times. But, it has only been recently that EPA made a change in policy.
"This significant shift in EPA behavior and policy toward NPDES permits in this particular area is disconcerting since this elevated scrutiny by EPA has little or no environmental or scientific basis and is contrary to almost three decades of past relationship between EPA and DEP," Secretary Krancer wrote.
EPA is requiring DEP to send copies of pending NPDES permit applications associated with mining in the Monongahela River watershed. Since last August, the request resulted in 80 submission of draft NPDES permits to EPA Region III for review.
"This additional review by EPA seems to be beyond EPA's Administrative staffing capabilities to review such permit applications in a timely manner," said Secretary Krancer.
DEP also questioned an April 1, 2010 EPA policy which requires the review saying the scientific basis for the policy does not apply in Pennsylvania.
"These objections, particularly those regarding conductivity thresholds, do not reflect an appropriate level of scientific basis concerning the water quality (ionic signature) and aquatic communities of the receiving streams in Pennsylvania," Secretary Krancer explained. "The current data set represents portions of two eco-regions in West Virginia and Kentucky; not Pennsylvania."
DEP asked EPA to respond to these concerns to help resolve this issue.
DEP also noted the General Assembly expressed concern about EPA mining permit reviews by passing House Resolution 87 (Pyle-R-Armstrong) on May 3.Secretary Krancer did note some issues raised by EPA during the permit review process were useful.
A copy of the letter is available online.