“The Spruce No. 1 mine is one of the largest and most destructive mountaintop removal mines ever proposed in Appalachia, EPA’s decision to veto the dumping of waste from this mine was a decision to prevent the most extreme impacts of the most radical type of strip mining – the worst of the worst,” said Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen. “The Clean Water Act, enacted with wide bipartisan and public support, gave the EPA broad authority to step in and stop this type of wholesale destruction and pollution of U.S. waters.
What's at Stake
Mountaintop removal mining is an atrocity that threatens water, wildlife and people. Earthjustice is in court defending EPA’s veto of a permit for one of the largest proposed mountaintop removal sites in history, the Spruce No. 1 mine.
The Mingo Logan coal company’s Spruce No. 1 mine—one of the largest mountaintop removal mines ever proposed—would bury over six miles of pristine mountain streams in rubble and destroy thousands of acres of forest. Appalachian ally groups fought back against the mine from the beginning, and for more than a decade succeeded in stalling its approval.
Then, in January 2011, the EPA made history when it vetoed the Spruce mine—the first ever veto of a proposed mine—on the grounds that it would severely harm natural resources in an area where local, low-income communities are already overburdened by mining and its pollution. Industry challenged the veto. Earthjustice, with and on behalf of Appalachian groups, filed a friend-of-the-court (amicus curiae) brief to defend the EPA’s historic action.
In March of 2012, the U.S. District Court overturned the EPA’s veto, clearing the way for Mingo Logan and its destructive Spruce No. 1 Mine. EPA appealed the court’s decision, and in April 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the agency’s legal authority to veto the mine. Mingo Logan asked for a reconsideration of the ruling but was denied in July 2013. It has filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to rule on EPA’s legal authority. While that petition awaits action, the rest of Mingo Logan’s claims, including that EPA lacked sufficient evidence of harm, will remain on hold. Earthjustice and Appalachian Mountain Advocates continue to work on behalf of numerous regional and national groups in support of EPA’s veto as the rest of this case proceeds.
A federal court overturned a lower court decision that had denied the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to reject a permit for the Spruce Mine in West Virginia. The decision upholds the agency’s veto power on permits for projects that pose a severe environmental threat and prevents that mine from aggravating Appalachian mountaintop removal. "Today's decision is a total vindication of the Clean Water Act and EPA's vital authority to protect all American communities from all kinds of environmental harm," said Earthjustice attorney Emma Cheuse.