Federal judge tosses lawsuit against Red River Coal over Virginia coal mine permits

A judge at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia on April 14 tossed out on a summary judgment motion from Red River Coal a June 2014 lawsuit that had been filed by environmental groups, including Appalachian Voices and the Sierra Club, over Clean Water Act issues at four coal mines in southwest Virginia.

This was a citizens’ suit under the Clean Water Act. The plaintiffs alleged that Red River Coal has violated a condition of its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for the coal mines. Plaintiffs alleged in their complaint that Red River had violated the NPDES permits at four of its coal mines. Thereafter, Red River provided plaintiffs with evidence that the discharge points supporting the allegations as to three of the permits have been removed. Therefore, plaintiffs moved for summary judgment solely for ongoing violations in relation to the one remaining permit. This mine, located in Wise County, is called the Flat Gap Mine, and it discharges pollutants into the South Fork of the Pound River.

In his April 14 decision granting Red River Coal’s summary judgment motion, Judge James Jones essentially deferred to the Virginia Division of Mined Land Reclamation’s (DMLR) determinations related to Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) levels under this permitting. “Plaintiffs have made no attempt to argue that DMLR’s findings and conclusions regarding the South Fork TMDL are inadequate or that they do not comply with federal law,” the judge wrote. “Rather, they allege that Red River has violated its permits — a conclusion that DMLR disagrees with. Absent a reason to disregard DMLR’s findings, which Plaintiffs do not present, I find that I must defer to DMLR’s determination.”

U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data shows Red River Coal as being controlled by William D. Humphreys.

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.