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Court Grants Temporary Halt to Mountaintop Removal Mining Expansion in West Virginia

The fight for clean streams and natural habitat in Appalachia was victorious in the form of a court order and agreement that will limit mining at five large scale surface mines in southern West Virginia. The court granted a temporary restraining order that prohibits the mining company from expanding mining and valley filling activities into previously undisturbed areas at the Camp Branch Mine in Logan County.  Earthjustice is currently challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' issuance of permits for Camp Branch and four other mines on behalf of local environmental groups for violations of the Clean Water Act. The court also recognized an agreement between the environmental groups and coal companies to limit mining activities temporarily at four other mines until the case can be heard in court.

Mountaintop removal mining is one of the most environmentally destructive forms of mining. Entire mountaintops are blown off in order to reach thin seams of coal buried hundreds of feet below. Already, more than 1,200 miles of streams and headwaters have been permanently buried, and more than 400,000 acres of pristine Appalachian mountains have been razed. Earthjustice and the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment on behalf of Coal River Mountain Watch, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last year in federal court, challenging its decision to issue mining permits that violate the Clean Water Act.

The Aug. 23 order from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia also set a trial date for Oct. 3 to address the environmental groups' legal claims.