Federal Court Rules Army Corps Prevented Meaningful Public Participation in Mountaintop Removal Mining Permit Decisions
January 28, 2010
On November 24, 2009, Sierra Club and its coalfield-based allies in West Virginia achieved an important victory in a lawsuit that challenged the adequacy of public notices issued by the Army Corps regarding permit applications for proposed mountaintop removal mines in West Virginia. The court's decision could require mining companies to resubmit hundreds of permit applications for new mines across Appalachia.
The Army Corps routinely issues public notices regarding permit applications for new mountaintop removal mines upon determining that the applications are "complete." These supposedly "complete" applications, however, frequently fail to provide necessary information about the environmental impacts of the mines or how the applicants plan to mitigate those impacts. Consequently, it is impossible for the public to comment meaningfully on the permit applications. The Corps then routinely dismisses the public comments as being "too general" to warrant a substantive response. After the public comment period closes, the mining companies submit detailed information to the Corps regarding the mines' impacts and their mitigation plans, but the public has no opportunity to comment on that information. Judge Chambers of the U.S. District Court in West Virginia agreed with the Club and its allies that the public notices failed to comply with the Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act, and deprived the public of the information needed to provide meaningful comments on the permit applications.
Sierra Club and its co-plaintiffs Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and Coal River Mountain Watch were represented by attorneys Joe Lovett and Jim Hecker in this lawsuit.
See other "Stopping Mountaintop Removal and Other Destructive Mining" cases.