Today, a federal judge in West Virginia issued a decision in a case challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to allow stream and headwater destruction by mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. Earthjustice and the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment represented the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy in the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, Judge Robert C. Chambers. A copy of the decision is available here.
The following is a statement by Earthjustice attorney Steve Roady regarding today’s victory:
“Today, we applaud the ruling in federal court stating that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the law by issuing mountaintop removal mining permits that allowed vital headwater streams to be permanently buried.
“The federal government has been illegally issuing such permits. Doing so has led to widespread and irreversible devastation to the streams, mountains and lands across Appalachia. The judge has made it clear that the Corps must now comply with the Clean Water Act and stop issuing illegal permits.
“This decision does give the Corps another chance to try and show that they can issue permits for valley fills in streams without violating the law. But the evidence to date shows that the Corps has no scientific basis — no real evidence of any kind — upon which it bases its decisions to permit this permanent destruction to streams and headwaters. They have shown no evidence to support their claims that this destruction can simply be ‘fixed’ through mitigation. In fact, as the court opinion correctly notes: “The Corp’s witnesses . . . conceded that the Corps does not know of any successful stream creation projects in the Appalachian region.”
“Mountaintop removal mining valley fills cannot comply with the Clean Water Act without strict environmental limits. We hope the Corps recognizes this fact and realizes that approving illegal mountaintop removal mining permits does nothing to protect the environment, violates the law and is destroying the lives and culture of the people of West Virginia and the region.”