West Virginia Groups Sue to Stop Mountaintop Removal Mining Permit

Black Castle Mine will destroy miles of streams, valleys


Janet Keating, Co-Director, OVEC, 304-522-0246 or 304-360-4201 (cell)
Cindy Rank, WVHC, 304-924-5802
Janice A. Nease, Coal River Mountain Watch (304) 854-2182

Local conservation groups today filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval of a mountaintop removal-mining permit that will destroy tens of thousands of feet of streams and valleys near the Black Castle Mine in Boone County, WV. Today’s action is on the heels of additional litigation filed in September challenging the Camp Branch Surface Mine permit, another mountaintop removal project located in southern West Virginia that will cause extensive environmental damage.

“The Corps failed to follow the law when they issued both of these permits,” said Janet Keating, co-director of Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC). “The Corps has repeatedly ignored evidence showing that mountaintop removal mining destroys the environment, harms the economy and degrades the lives of West Virginians, and has approved these permits without proper review. Our lawsuits send them a message to start complying with the law and stop blowing up our mountains.”

Today’s filing in the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia (No. 3:05-0784) is on behalf of OVEC, Coal River Mountain Watch, and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, who are represented by Earthjustice and the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment. The filing challenges the Army Corps of Engineers’ August 2005 approval of Elk Run Coal Company’s Black Castle Mine in violation of the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

The discharge of fill from this mountaintop removal project would permanently destroy over 13,000 linear feet of jurisdictional streams and fill nine nearby valleys. The Corps approved this permit without requiring an Environmental Impact Statement, which would have fully analyzed the impacts of smothering the streams and filling the valleys. The Corps did not require any additional studies, despite the fact that Elk Run Coal has failed to explore any alternatives to destroying the nine valleys.

“Mountaintop removal mining has already destroyed over 800 square miles of West Virginia land and more than a thousand miles of headwater streams that flowed from those mountains,” said Cindy Rank of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy. “There is no excuse to say that this activity has ‘no significant impact’ on the environment, as the Corps alleges. We are losing our land and a huge part of our cultural heritage with each of these mining permits that the Corps of Engineers approves. If this permit approval continues, by the end of this decade we will lose up to 2,200 square miles of land in Appalachia, an area equal in size to the entire state of Delaware. This destruction has got to stop.”

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a final Environmental Impact Statement on the practice of mountaintop removal mining that continues to endorse this devastating mining practice.

“Rather than make some effort to protect our lands, our homes and our heritage, the Bush administration and EPA are just continuing their business as usual: more handouts to the coal industry,” said Janice Nease, with Coal River Mountain Watch. “Big coal has a stranglehold on West Virginia. Instead of planning for our future, they’re destroying our past and turning profits from our misery. This mine and others throughout the state are serving only the interests of coal barons and corporate profits, and every West Virginian is forced to pay the price.”

For additional background information, please contact:
Joe Lovett, Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment (304) 645-9006
Margaret Janes, Appalachian Center for the Economy & the Environment (304) 897-6048
Steve Roady/Jennifer Chavez, Earthjustice (202) 667-4500 3713

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