The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its proposal under the Clean Water Act to significantly restrict or prohibit mountaintop mining at the Spruce No. 1 surface mine in Logan County, W.Va. Arch Coal’s Spruce No.1 mine is one of the largest mountaintop mining operations ever proposed in Central Appalachia. The project was permitted in 2007 and subsequently delayed by litigation. The EPA said its proposed determination comes after extended discussions with the company failed to produce an agreement that would lead to a significant decrease of the environmental and health impacts of the mine.

The U.S. National Mining Association (NMA) said it was deeply disappointed in the EPA’s decision. “The existing permit for the Spruce operation was issued after a 13-year process that included a full environmental impact statement and reviews by both state and federal agencies, making the Spruce project the most reviewed coal mine in the nation’s history,” said Bruce Watzman, senior vice president for regulatory affairs, NMA. “The EPA’s proposed action adds further uncertainty for jobs and economic security throughout Appalachia. We remain hopeful this and other permitting obstacles can be favorably resolved in the near future.”

The EPA has used its Clean Water Act veto authority in just 12 circumstances since 1972 and never for a previously permitted project.