Monday, February 13, 2012

Episode 99 (February 13, 2012): Coal and Water, Part 3

Click to listen to episode (7:16).

Please see below (after the transcript and show notes) for links to news and upcoming events.

From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of February 13, 2012.

This week, we conclude our series on some of the connections between water quality and coal-mining in southwestern Virginia and in Appalachia generally.  This week’s installment gives the perspective of a representative of a major coal-mining company.  The speaker is John Paul Jones, director of environmental regulatory and external affairs for Alpha Natural Resources, headquartered in Bristol, Va.  This five-minute excerpt is from Mr. Jones’ presentation at the symposium, “Coal and Water in Appalachia—The Challenge to Balance,” held November 15, 2011, in Blacksburg.  Two technical notes: In the excerpt, you’ll hear the abbreviations MIRA and NMA.  MIRA stands for the U.S. EPA’s Multi-criteria Integrated Resource Assessment tool for assessing coal-mining permit applications.  NMA stands for the National Mining Association.


Water resources are affected in significant ways by the mining and use of coal—from the impacts of mountaintop mining on coalfield streams, to acidic drainage from abandoned mine lands, to the water supplies needed for generating electricity from burning coal, to coal-combustion air emissions that can eventually reach water bodies.  Our brief series of three episodes only begins to describe these connections and the challenges they present to the coal industry, environmental regulators, and the electricity-demanding public.  Complexity and controversy will no doubt continue to link Virginia’s coal and water resources.

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.

Acknowledgments and More Information:
Virginia Water Radio episodes 97 (week of January 30, 2012) and 98 (week of February 6, 2012) presented the first two installments of this series on water quality and coal mining.

Virginia Water thanks John Paul Jones for permission to use excerpts from his talk at the November 15, 2011, symposium, “Coal and Water in Central Appalachia: The Challenge to Balance,” organized by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, West Virginia Water Research Institute, and Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute; more information on the symposium and links to slide presentations by speakers are available online at  More information on Alpha Natural Resources is available from their Web site at

Enhanced coordination procedures (ECP) and the Multi-criteria Integrated Resource Assessment  (MIRA) used in evaluating coal-mining permit applications (and addressed in Mr. Jones’ presentation) are discussed in a November 2010 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, Information on Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit Reviews under Enhanced Coordination Procedures in Appalachia, Focusing on West Virginia, available online at (as of 2/13/12).

The Virginia Water Central News Grouper blog site (online at has a Coal and Water category, providing annotated links to recent news articles and other materials regarding the connections between water resources and the mining or use of coal.

On July 21, 2011, the U.S. EPA issued the final version of its regulatory guidance to Appalachian regional offices on regulation of surface coal mining (including mountaintop mining and associated valley fills) under the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Environmental Justice Executive Order.  A key feature of the guidance is the EPA’s call for states to implement a water-quality standard reflecting “best available science” about the relationship between measures of conductivity (as an indicator of the amount of total dissolved solids or salinity) and stream aquatic life.  The EPA’s Web site on regulation of surface coal mining is at; this site includes links to the July 21 guidance, a news release on the guidance, and many background documents.

Recent Virginia Water News
            For news relevant to Virginia's water resources, please visit the Virginia Water Central News Grouper, available online at

Water Meetings and Other Events
            For events related to Virginia's water resources, please visit the Quick Guide to Virginia Water–related Conferences, Workshops, and Other Events, online at  The site includes a list of Virginia government policy and regulatory meetings occurring in the coming week.