Bad Public Involvement Delays 79 Permits

Coal mine in southern West Virginia

Coal mine in southern West Virginia

On November 24, Judge Chuck Chambers ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated NEPA by not providing sufficient means for the public to comment on two coal mountain top removal permits in the Appalachian Mountains.

The other 79 pending permits in the area could be sent back to go through the public process again as well, according to the Sierra Club spokesman, Oliver Bernstein.

Judge Chambers said that the US Army Corps of Engineers’ public involvement was lacking on two fronts.  First, he ruled that the information released to the public at first was unclear and inadequate.  Secondly, once the Corps released hundreds of pages of information actually relevant to the environmental assessment, it was released post-notice and post-comment.

The public notices would have been sufficient if they had included practical information, such as the type of plan proposed, the location, a map, information regarding topography, and historical background of the area.  “Plaintiffs are not requesting engineering-level detail,” Chambers said. “However, conceptual analysis is necessary… to intelligently comment on a public notice.”

NEPA Lesson Learned: Include practical information such as scope, location and a map with public notices.

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