* Permit is for West Virginia mountaintop mine
* Case was one of 79 held up by EPA for evaluation
* Patriot shares up 1.9 pct; other coal stocks also rise
(Adds company and EPA comments, stock move, byline)
By Steve James
NEW YORK, Jan 6 Patriot Coal Corp PCX.N has
received a permit for a new mine in West Virginia, one of 79
cases that had been held up by the Environmental Protection
Agency for evaluation on whether surface mining operations
pollute local water.
The news boosted Patriot's stock, along with shares of
other coal companies, including Arch Coal Inc ACI.N, whose
own EPA-delayed plans for a mountaintop mine were boosted by a
federal court ruling.
The issue pits miners, who argue it is more economical to
dig into mountainsides than sink underground shafts, against
environmentalists, who accuse the companies of dumping waste
and polluting rivers and streams.
Patriot said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed its
evaluation process and issued a permit for the Hobet 45
mountaintop mine on Wednesday, a day after the EPA's decision
to lift its objections.
The EPA said the Hobet 45 mine now meets Clean Water Act
requirements, after plans were redesigned to eliminate nearly
50 percent of stream impacts, reduce anticipated stream
contamination, and protect public health.
"We are encouraged that, through a constructive process of
engagement and discussion, we have reached agreement with EPA
on a mine plan that minimizes impact to the environment," said
Patriot Chief Executive Officer Richard Whiting.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "Our role ... is to
ensure that mining companies avoid environmental degradation
and protect water quality so that Appalachian communities don't
have to choose between jobs and their health.
"Our goal is to ensure Americans living in coal country are
protected from environmental, health and economic damage."
In September, in a move seen as favoring environmentalists,
the EPA said 79 pending permits in Appalachia had to undergo
additional evaluation because they posed potential hazard to
Mining companies said the EPA decision threatened job
security in parts of Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio that
depend heavily on coal mining.
But environmental groups welcomed the decision and called
on the Obama administration to reverse rules that allow surface
mines and to enforce clean air and water legislation.
The Hobet 45 mine is part of Patriot's Corridor G mining
complex in southern West Virginia. At full capacity, it will
produce nearly 4 million tons of thermal coal annually.
In the Arch Coal case, the Federal District Court in
southern West Virginia extended a court-established deadline to
respond to a company request to end the litigation on the
proposed Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County.
EPA and Mingo Logan Mining Co, a subsidiary of Arch Coal,
asked for the extension in order to continue discussions to
determine if a revised mining plan could be developed that will
comply with the Clean Water Act.
In midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Arch
stock was 5.0 percent higher at $25.79, while Patriot rose 1.9
percent to $18.64. The Dow Jones coal index .DJUSCL was up
(Reporting by Steve James; Editing by Derek Caney and John