Local citizen and clean water groups filed suit Nov. 17 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia over allegations of widespread water pollution from Coal-Mac Inc.’s surface coal mining complex in Logan County, West Virginia.
The complex includes surface mines, preparation plants, and refuse facilities in the Pine Creek watershed, said the Sierra Club in a Nov. 17 statement. The groups are alleging that Coal-Mac, an Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI) subsidiary, is violating the terms of its Clean Water Act pollution discharge permits and its state-issued surface mining permits. In addition, the groups claim that Coal-Mac is violating the terms of its Clean Water Act section 401 water quality certification, which cleared the way for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue a Section 404 fill permit for the mine.
“It’s a shame we have to sue to force this company to follow the laws — laws written to protect us,” said Vivian Stockman with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. “When coal corporations allow their mining activity to pollute our streams, they aren’t just killing off bugs, but they are also threatening the area’s biodiversity. That ultimately means a threat to human health and well being.”
The Sierra Club claimed that recent analyses show that about 72% of the coal from West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia is mined at a financial loss, and companies are attempting to limit those losses by continuing to destroy mountains despite a “dramatic and increasing market glut of coal.”
This case, while one of many filed in recent years against coal companies over Clean Water Act issues, is one of the first times that the groups are suing to enforce a condition in a Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certification. Before the Army Corps may issue a “dredge and fill” permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, state regulators must certify that the proposed fill project will satisfy water quality requirements.
The groups are represented in this matter by attorneys Mike Becher and Joe Lovett of Appalachian Mountain Advocates.