[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 69 (Monday, April 12, 2010)]
[Notices]
[Pages 18499-18500]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-8302]


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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

[FRL-9136-3; Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD-2009-0934]


The Effects of Mountaintop Mines and Valley Fills on Aquatic 
Ecosystems of the Central Appalachian Coalfields and a Field-Based 
Aquatic Life Benchmark for Conductivity in Central Appalachian Streams

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice of public comment period.

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SUMMARY: EPA is announcing a 60-day public comment period for two 
related draft documents: (1) ``The Effects of Mountaintop Mines and 
Valley Fills on Aquatic Ecosystems of the Central Appalachian 
Coalfields'' (EPA/600/R-09/138A) and (2) ``A Field-based Aquatic Life 
Benchmark for Conductivity in Central Appalachian Streams'' (EPA/600/R-
10/023A). These reports were developed by the National Center for 
Environmental Assessment (NCEA) within EPA's Office of Research and 
Development as part of a set of actions taken by EPA to further clarify 
and strengthen environmental permitting requirements for Appalachian 
mountaintop removal and other surface coal mining projects, in 
coordination with Federal and State regulatory agencies (http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/guidance/mining.html).
    Both documents will be reviewed by an independent review panel 
convened by EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB). The SAB's peer review 
meeting, which the public will be able to attend as observers, will be 
scheduled at a later date, and announced in the Federal Register. The 
public comment period and the SAB meeting are separate processes that 
provide opportunities for all interested parties to comment on the 
document. EPA intends to forward the public comments that are 
submitted, in accordance with this notice, to the SAB review panel 
prior to the meeting for their consideration. When finalizing the draft 
documents, EPA intends to consider any significant public comments that 
it receives in accordance with this notice.
    EPA is releasing these draft documents for the purpose of pre-
dissemination peer review under applicable information quality 
guidelines. The documents have not been formally disseminated by EPA. 
They do not represent and should not be construed to represent a final 
Agency policy or determination; however, the documents reflect EPA's 
best interpretation of the available science. The draft documents are 
available via the Internet on NCEA's home page under the Recent 
Additions and Publications menus at http://www.epa.gov/ncea.

DATES: The 60-day public comment period begins April 12, 2010, and ends 
June 11, 2010. Technical comments should be in writing and must be 
received by EPA by June 11, 2010.

ADDRESSES: The draft reports, ``The Effects of Mountaintop Mines and 
Valley Fills on Aquatic Ecosystems of the Central Appalachian 
Coalfields'' and ``A Field-based Aquatic Life Benchmark for 
Conductivity in Central Appalachian Streams'' are available primarily 
via the Internet on the National Center for Environmental Assessment's 
home page under the Recent Additions and Publications menus at http://www.epa.gov/ncea. A limited number of paper copies are available, 
contact the EPA; telephone: 703-347-8629; facsimile: 703-347-8691. If 
you are requesting a paper copy, please provide your name, your mailing 
address, and the document titles (1) ``The Effects of Mountaintop Mines 
and Valley Fills on Aquatic Ecosystems of the Central Appalachian 
Coalfields'' and (2) ``A Field-based Aquatic Life Benchmark for 
Conductivity in Central Appalachian Streams.''
    Comments may be submitted electronically via http://www.regulations.gov, by mail, by facsimile, or by hand delivery/
courier. Please follow the detailed instructions provided in the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this notice.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For information on submitting comments 
to the docket, please contact the Office of Environmental Information 
Docket; telephone: 202-566-1752; facsimile: 202-566-1753; or e-mail: 
ORD.Docket@epa.gov. For technical information, please leave a message 
at 703-347-8629 or send e-mail to MTM-Cond@epa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

I. Background

    The purpose of the first draft report entitled ``The Effects of 
Mountaintop Mines and Valley Fills on Aquatic Ecosystems of the Central 
Appalachian Coalfields,'' is to assess the state of the science on the 
ecological impacts of Mountaintop Mining and Valley Fill (MTM-VF) 
operations on streams in the Central Appalachian Coal Basin. This basin 
covers about 12 million acres in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and 
Tennessee. The draft report reviews literature relevant to evaluating 
five potential consequences of MTM-VF operations: (1) Impacts on 
headwater streams; (2) impacts on downstream water quality; (3) impacts 
on stream ecosystems; (4) the cumulative impacts of multiple mining 
operations; and (5) effectiveness of mining reclamation and mitigation. 
The impacts of MTM-VF operations on cultural and aesthetic resources 
are not included in the review. EPA used two primary sources of 
information for the evaluation: (1) The peer reviewed, published 
literature and (2) the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement 
(PEIS) on Mountaintop Mining/Valley Fills in Appalachia and its 
associated appendices prepared in draft in 2003 and finalized in 2005.
    The second draft report entitled, ``A Field-based Aquatic Life 
Benchmark for Conductivity in Central Appalachian Streams,'' uses field 
data to derive an aquatic life benchmark for conductivity. Conductivity 
is a measurement of the salt content of water. The saltier the water, 
the more it will conduct electricity. This benchmark value may be 
applied to waters in the Appalachian Region that are near neutral or 
mildly alkaline in their pH and are influenced by salts of sulfate and 
bicarbonate. This benchmark is intended to protect the biological 
integrity of waters in the region. It is derived by a method modeled on 
the U.S. EPA's standard methodology for deriving water quality 
criteria. In particular, the methodology was adapted for use of field 
data. Field data were used because sufficient and appropriate 
laboratory data were not available and because high quality field data 
were available to relate conductivity to effects on biotic communities. 
This draft report provides scientific evidence for a conductivity 
benchmark in a specific region rather than for the entire United 
States.

II. How To Submit Technical Comments to the Docket at http://www.regulations.gov

    Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD 2009-
0934, by one of the following methods:
     http://www.regulations.gov: Follow the on-line 
instructions for submitting comments.
     E-mail: ORD.Docket@epa.gov.
     Fax: 202-566-1753

[[Page 18500]]

     Mail: Office of Environmental Information (OEI) Docket 
(Mail Code: 2822T), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 
Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Washington, DC 20460. The phone number is 202-
566-1752.
     Hand Delivery: The OEI Docket is located in the EPA 
Headquarters Docket Center, Room 3334 EPA West Building, 1301 
Constitution Ave., NW., Washington, DC. The EPA Docket Center's Public 
Reading Room is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through 
Friday, excluding legal holidays. The telephone number for the Public 
Reading Room is 202-566-1744. Such deliveries are only accepted during 
the docket's normal hours of operation, and special arrangements should 
be made for deliveries of boxed information.
    If you provide comments by mail or hand delivery, please submit 
three copies of the comments. For attachments, provide an index, number 
pages consecutively with the comments, and submit an unbound original 
and three copies.
    Instructions: Direct your comments to Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD-
2009-0934. Please ensure that your comments are submitted within the 
specified comment period. Comments received after the closing date will 
be marked ``late,'' and may only be considered if time permits. It is 
EPA's policy to include all comments it receives in the public docket 
without change and to make the comments available online at http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided, 
unless a comment includes information claimed to be Confidential 
Business Information (CBI) or other information whose disclosure is 
restricted by statute. Do not submit information that you consider to 
be CBI or otherwise protected through http://www.regulations.gov or e-
mail. The http://www.regulations.gov Web site is an ``anonymous 
access'' system, which means EPA will not know your identity or contact 
information unless you provide it in the body of your comment. If you 
send an e-mail comment directly to EPA without going through http://www.regulations.gov, your e-mail address will be automatically captured 
and included as part of the comment that is placed in the public docket 
and made available on the Internet. If you submit an electronic 
comment, EPA recommends that you include your name and other contact 
information in the body of your comment and with any disk or CD-ROM you 
submit. If EPA cannot read your comment due to technical difficulties 
and cannot contact you for clarification, EPA may not be able to 
consider your comment. Electronic files should avoid the use of special 
characters, any form of encryption, and be free of any defects or 
viruses. For additional information about EPA's public docket, visit 
the EPA Docket Center homepage at http://www.epa.gov/epahome/dockets.htm.
    Docket: Documents in the docket are listed in the http://www.regulations.gov index. Although listed in the index, some 
information is not publicly available, e.g., CBI or other information 
whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Certain other materials, 
such as copyrighted material, are publicly available only in hard copy. 
Publicly available docket materials are available either electronically 
in http://www.regulations.gov or in hard copy at the OEI Docket in the 
EPA Headquarters Docket Center.

    Dated: April 2, 2010.
Peter W. Preuss,
Director, National Center for Environmental Assessment.
[FR Doc. 2010-8302 Filed 4-9-10; 8:45 am]
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