Earthjustice Asks Court To Strike Down Rule That Lets Coal Companies Dump in Streams

Legal action challenges DOI to reinstate “Stream Buffer Zone” safeguard


Liz Judge, Earthjustice, 415.217.2007

Today, a broad coalition of citizen and environmental groups asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to reverse a Department of Interior rule that removed a key protection for streams against mountaintop removal and other large-scale surface coal mining—a 100-foot buffer zone around valuable streams in which harmful mining activities are not allowed.

The Bush administration removed this protection through a midnight rulemaking in 2008, and the Obama administration agreed the Bush administration’s action was unlawful. But the Interior Department has since failed to undo the Bush administration’s rulemaking by the deadline it agreed to. Earthjustice is asking the Court to do what the Obama administration has not: strike down the illegal Bush rule and reinstate buffers to protect vital streams from surface mining. Based on EPA estimates, mountaintop removal mining has destroyed or harmed 2,400 miles of Appalachian streams to date.

Earthjustice attorney Jennifer Chavez stated: “We are coming up on the five year anniversary of the removal of this key protection, and Appalachian communities and families continue to suffer from the extreme pollution and destruction of mountaintop removal mining. The disastrous 2008 Bush rule needs to be scrapped without further delay. Basic protections for waterways and families cannot continue to wait while the Obama administration drags its feet.”

Earthjustice, along with Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates, are representing the Sierra Club, the Waterkeeper Alliance, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Coal River Mountain Watch, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment.

Read the court briefing.

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