Victory in Important Lawsuit Challenging Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining in Appalachia
November 7, 2008
In October 2008, the Sierra Club and its coalfield-based allies obtained a preliminary injunction from a U.S. District Court in a lawsuit challenging Fola Coal Corporation’s “Ike Fork” mountaintop removal (MTR) mine in West Virginia. The Clean Water Act permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the mine authorizes Fola to bury more than six miles of streams in 11 “valley fills” -- the industry’s euphemism for burying streams and hollows with mining waste. The injunction temporarily halts the majority of the mining pending a final decision on the merits in the case.
This ruling has important implications for the future of Corps permits authorizing destructive coal mines throughout the region. Prior litigation has effectively shut down the Corps permitting program for MTR mining since March 2007. Since the March 2007 ruling, the Corps has scrambled to develop an assessment tool that would enable it to continue issuing permits that authorize MTR mining. The Corps recently adopted an "interim functional assessment approach,” and the agency approved the first MTR permit relying on its "interim assessment" for the Ike Fork mine. The court’s decision in the Fola lawsuit will thus determine if the Corps can continue approving permits based on its new approach for assessing stream function. In granting the injunction, the court ruled that the Club and its allies had raised a substantial legal question as to whether the interim assessment – like the Corps’ prior approach – provided sufficient protection for streams, as required by the Clean Water Act.
The Sierra Club is very excited about this victory, which could not have been achieved without help from our allies Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, and without our lead attorneys, Joe Lovett with Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment and Jim Hecker with Public Justice.
Details and Documents:
To view the ruling click here!
Judge Partially Holds Fola Mountaintop Permit
November 1, 2008 by Ken Ward, The Charleston Gazette
See other "Stopping Mountaintop Removal and Other Destructive Mining" cases.