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Appalachians Vow to Continue Supporting EPA’s Effort to Protect Waterways and Communities from Mountaintop Removal Mining

District court rules in case involving issue of EPA authority to protect waters
March 23, 2012
Washington, D.C. —

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today ruled in the case where industry has attacked the Environmental Protection Agency’s veto of the extremely destructive Spruce No. 1 Mine in West Virginia. The court struck down the EPA's veto of the Spruce mine.

The following is a statement from the environmental and community groups who were granted amicus curiae status by the court—Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch, and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, represented by attorneys at Earthjustice and Appalachian Mountain Advocates:

“It is a sad day not only for the people who live near mountains and streams threatened by mountaintop removal coal mining, but for all Americans who understand the need to protect our waterways, and the health of communities that depend on them. We are deeply disappointed and concerned about the effect of today’s court ruling because mountaintop removal mining has already caused widespread and extreme destruction to the mountains, waters, and communities of Appalachia. The Spruce No. 1 Mine permit, in particular, was one of the largest mountaintop removal permits ever proposed in Appalachia, and it is located in an area of West Virginia that has already been devastated by several large mountaintop removal mines.

“We need EPA to be able to fully protect our waters. This egregiously harmful coal mining practice, which decimates mountains and buries streams with mining waste, is linked to grave health threats for families and communities across the region. Waters are being buried and contaminated at unprecedented rates in Appalachia, and numerous scientific studies show that the people in this region are suffering greatly. As EPA appropriately found, the Spruce No. 1 Mine would cause unacceptable harm to waters of the United States, and it should not be allowed to go forward.

“People across Appalachia are struggling to stop the permanent destruction of their treasured waters and communities. We urge the EPA to continue exercising its full authority under the law to protect these iconic landscapes and waters.

“Congress passed the Clean Water Act to protect Americans from the very circumstances that mountaintop removal coal mining is now imposing on Appalachian families. The 40-year-old Clean Water Act makes it clear that EPA has broad legal authority to protect our waters and communities’ clean water—and it is essential for EPA to do so before our waterways are gone for good.

“We urge the EPA to appeal today’s ruling and continue to exercise its full authority under the Clean Water Act to protect waterways and communities. The Army Corps should also exercise its authority to recognize the clear science and revoke or suspend the permit. Severe harm would occur if the company is allowed to dump mining waste. Our groups are committed to fighting for clean water and justice in Appalachia until the people in Appalachia get the protections we so deserve.”

Contacts

Liz Judge, Earthjustice, (202) 797-5237; cell (970) 710-9002

Oliver Bernstein, Sierra Club, (512) 474-2887, ext. 102; (512) 289-8618

Cindy Rank, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, (304) 924-5802

Vernon Haltom, Coal River Mountain Watch, (304) 854-2182

Vivian Stockman, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, (304) 360-1979

Dan Radmacher, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, (540) 798-6683

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.