Conservation groups said Oct. 27 that they are challenging at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval of a Clean Water Act permit authorizing coal mining material to be dumped into streams that feed into the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River in Alabama.
The groups charge that the agency failed to account for the Section 404 permit’s adverse effects on a watershed that has been continuously degraded by previous and current mining activities for more than a century. The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the challenge on behalf of Black Warrior Riverkeeper and Defenders of Wildlife, arguing that allowing stream filling at the Black Creek Mine site is yet another case where the agency has “rubberstamped” approvals without properly analyzing the site-specific and broader impacts of the permit.
“The Corps’ lax approach toward issuing these permits has resulted in many miles of important streams and acres of wetlands being filled with soil, rock and pollutants,” said Nelson Brooke from Black Warrior Riverkeeper in an Oct. 27 statement. “This permitting system is the wrong path for Alabama’s water resources, which deserve lasting protection from such activities.”
With over 100 permitted coal mines in the Black Warrior River watershed, impacts from coal mining are some of the biggest threats to water quality in the region, the environmental groups said. The Black Creek Mine would be a new 287-acre surface coal mine operated by Canadian company Global Met Coal Corp.
“Issuing an individual permit requires the Corps to look closely at the direct and indirect impacts of stream filling, and the harmful effects on water quality can go well beyond the footprint of the fill,” said Catherine Wannamaker from the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Neglecting to take appropriate action to mitigate for these impacts—especially from a large site like the Black Creek Mine—is irresponsible and sets a terrible precedent at the expense of Alabama’s waters.”