Enviro groups threaten to sue Patriot Coal over water issues

The Sierra Club said Dec. 10 that citizen and environmental groups have put Patriot Coal subsidiary Hobet Mining on notice of their intent to sue over alleged pollution at the Hobet 21 mining complex in Boone County, W.Va.

The groups – the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and Sierra Club – and their attorneys with Appalachian Mountain Advocates have identified what they called multiple ongoing violations of West Virginia’s narrative water quality standards at the mine complex. Specifically, the groups have identified evidence indicating that the company’s water runoff from more than twenty valley fills into the Mud River and its tributaries – including Lukey Fork, Ballard Fork, Berry Branch, Sugartree Branch and Stanley Fork – are extremely high in conductivity pollution. Multiple scientific studies have shown that high conductivity pollution from surface coal mines in Appalachia devastates downstream aquatic communities, the groups said.

“It’s a shame that the responsibility for protecting West Virginia waterways from harmful mining pollution falls to groups like ours,” said Jim Sconyers of the West Virginia Sierra Club. “This is the state of West Virginia’s job, but they refuse to act despite the overwhelming evidence that coal mining destroys streams and communities.”

The groups’ notice letter identifies evidence including information in permit applications and baseline water quality data from various tributaries in the watershed showing that prior to mining the water quality in the area was characterized by low levels of conductivity pollution. Pre-mining data also shows that the streams were biologically healthy and that many organisms known to be particularly sensitive to conductivity pollution from surface mining were present.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.