The Bear Run coal mine in southwest Indiana will soon become the largest — and least regulated — coal mine in the Eastern United States.
According to an article in the Indianapolis Star, the mine is expected to produce 5-8 million tons of coal annually. That would make Bear Run one of the 27 mines in the U.S. that produce over 5.85 million tons of coal a year. Of those large mines, Bear Run is the only one not required to follow stronger requirements to test for and clean up pollutants.
Environmental Law & Policy Center Staff Attorney Jessica Dexter says that Indiana's state environmental agency has decided to "rubber stamp" the mine using the same weak rules that govern many smaller mines in other parts of the state, rather than fulfill its obligation to protect Hoosiers and acquatic life.
The issue is whether the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) should require Bear Run to obtain an individual permit or a general permit. A general permit is a "one-size-fits-all approach," Dexter says. "It ignores the fact that each mine has its own set of potential pollution issues that should be addressed."
An individual permit -- like the ones issued to other large mines in the United States -- would require Bear Run owners to study the mine's wastewater, analyze nearby waterways, determine the threat of toxic contamination, and obtain a permit that sets pollution limits based on the initial assessment and regular water quality testing.
According to Dexter, "The idea that a mine the size of Bear Run is not a project IDEM thinks 'could have a significant impact' is ludicrous."
Read the article in the Indianapolis Star and check out INourwater.org's exclusive photography above.