Late yesterday, on the eve of the Clean Water Act’s 40th anniversary, citizen groups filed a lawsuit challenging a Clean Water Act permit for a mountaintop removal mine in Kentucky on the grounds that it was issued illegally, violating the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Polluted runoff from valley fills creates a bright, unnatural color on the surrounding rock. (Mark Schmerling)
Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC) and the Sierra Club are challenging the permit for the Stacy Branch mountaintop removal mining operation near the community of Vicco, in Knott and Perry counties, Kentucky. The permit, issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, would allow the Leeco company to destroy 3.5 miles of streams that local communities depend on by mining through them or burying them with mining waste. Earthjustice, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, and the Appalachian Citizens' Law Center are representing KFTC and the Sierra Club in this case.
Yesterday citizen groups also filed a separate challenge to a permit for a mountaintop removal mine site in West Virginia.
The following is a statement from Earthjustice attorney Neil Gormley:
“Forty years after the passage of the Clean Water Act, Appalachian citizens are still fighting for their basic right to clean water.
“Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle came together 40 years ago to pass the Clean Water Act to end and prevent what Appalachian people, families, and communities unfortunately still face today from mountaintop removal mining: complete destruction of waterways, water pollution downstream, and serious health problems.
“This landmark law’s goal was to end the use of our nation’s waters as dumping grounds for polluting industries and to make all our waters drinkable, swimmable, and fishable.
“Clearly in Appalachia, where it is estimated that 2,400 miles of streams have been destroyed by mountaintop removal to date, and where science shows serious health impacts in areas near mountaintop removal mining, the Clean Water Act is not being enforced and justice is not being served.
“People and communities in Appalachia deserve clean water. It is their right under the Clean Water Act. And with this 40-year-old law on our side, we will fight for that right until it is fulfilled.”