Sierra Club Acts to Defend EPA’s Veto of Massive Mountaintop Removal Mine
March 23, 2012
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today ruled in the case where industry has attacked the Environmental Protection Agency’s veto of the extremely destructive Spruce No. 1 Mine in West Virginia. The court struck down the EPA's veto of the Spruce mine.
The following is a statement from the environmental and community groups who were granted amicus curiae status by the court—Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch, and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, represented by attorneys at Earthjustice and Appalachian Mountain Advocates:
“It is a sad day not only for the people who live near mountains and streams threatened by mountaintop removal coal mining, but for all Americans who understand the need to protect our waterways, and the health of communities that depend on them. We are deeply disappointed and concerned about the effect of today’s court ruling because mountaintop removal mining has already caused widespread and extreme destruction to the mountains, waters, and communities of Appalachia. The Spruce No. 1 Mine permit, in particular, was one of the largest mountaintop removal permits ever proposed in Appalachia, and it is located in an area of West Virginia that has already been devastated by several large mountaintop removal mines.
“We need EPA to be able to fully protect our waters. This egregiously harmful coal mining practice, which decimates mountains and buries streams with mining waste, is linked to grave health threats for families and communities across the region. Waters are being buried and contaminated at unprecedented rates in Appalachia, and numerous scientific studies show that the people in this region are suffering greatly. As EPA appropriately found, the Spruce No. 1 Mine would cause unacceptable harm to waters of the United States, and it should not be allowed to go forward.
“People across Appalachia are struggling to stop the permanent destruction of their treasured waters and communities. We urge the EPA to continue exercising its full authority under the law to protect these iconic landscapes and waters.
“Congress passed the Clean Water Act to protect Americans from the very circumstances that mountaintop removal coal mining is now imposing on Appalachian families. The 40-year-old Clean Water Act makes it clear that EPA has broad legal authority to protect our waters and communities’ clean water—and it is essential for EPA to do so before our waterways are gone for good.
“We urge the EPA to appeal today’s ruling and continue to exercise its full authority under the Clean Water Act to protect waterways and communities. The Army Corps should also exercise its authority to recognize the clear science and revoke or suspend the permit. Severe harm would occur if the company is allowed to dump mining waste. Our groups are committed to fighting for clean water and justice in Appalachia until the people in Appalachia get the protections we so deserve.”
May 25, 2011
On May 25, Sierra Club and its coalfield allies took action to defend the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to veto a permit for the Spruce No. 1 Mine, one of the largest mountaintop removal mines ever proposed in Appalachia. The EPA veto enforces the law and protects more than 6.6 miles of West Virginia streams from permanent destruction.
Represented by Earthjustice and the Appalachian Center for the Economy & the Environment, Sierra Club and three local conservation and social justice groups — West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Coal River Mountain Watch, and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition — filed a motion to intervene in support of EPA against the lawsuit brought by the Mingo Logan Coal Company. Their filing explains that EPA’s veto fully satisfies the Clean Water Act and was a proper exercise of EPA’s ultimate authority to oversee the Corps’ permitting process and prevent unacceptable damage to U.S. waters, and the wildlife and communities that depend on those waters.
January 13, 2011
On January 13, 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took an historic step when it vetoed a Clean Water Act permit for the nation’s largest proposed mountaintop removal coal mine site, the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia. With this latest action to uphold the standards of the Act, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson stopped a mountaintop removal coal mine that would have destroyed more than seven miles of vital streams and more than 2,000 mountain acres in an important part of Appalachia.
Even more importantly, this action shows that while the coal industry and past administrations have denied the impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining on local communities, the Obama administration and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson are addressing the importance of environmental justice in Appalachia and taking steps to begin protecting these communities. This action completes the final stage of the EPA's process to veto the permit originally issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
This is a culmination of a fight by Sierra Club and its allies to stop the mine. The fight started in 1998 when a resident of Pigeonroost Hollow, one of the hollows that would be destroyed by the mine, sued the Corps to revoke Arch Coal's Clean Water Act permit. That lawsuit, the first ever brought by citizens to stop a mountaintop removal coal mine, sparked years of litigation against the Corps to stop the Spruce Mine and other illegal mountaintop removal coal mines. Remarkably, the Corps persists in trying to permit these mines which destroy the very streams that the Corps is supposed to protect.
"It is a relief after all of these years that at least one agency has shown the will to follow the law and the science by stopping the destruction of Pigeonroost Hollow and Oldhouse Branch," said Joe Lovett, lawyer and executive director of the Appalachian Center for the Economy & the Environment, who has been fighting this mine for more than 12 years. "Today, the EPA has helped to save these beautiful hollows for future generations. Unfortunately, the Spruce Mine's impacts are not unique. Although we are grateful for the EPA's action today, EPA must follow through by vetoing the scores of other Corps permits that violate the Clean Water Act and that would allow mountaintop mines to lay waste to our mountains and streams."
Said Ed Hopkins, Sierra Club's Environmental Quality Program Director: "In sharp contrast to the previous administration's policies on mountaintop removal coal mining, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is showing a strong commitment to the law, the science and the principles of environmental justice. She deserves enormous credit for changing policies to protect Appalachia's health, land and water."
Photo: Spruce Valley and Pigeonroost Hollow in Logan County, West Virginia. Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman / www.ohvec.org. Flyover courtesy SouthWings.org.
October 18, 2010
On October 15, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took courageous action to protect the people and waterways of Appalachia when Shawn Garvin, the agency's Region 3 Administrator, recommended the withdrawal of the mining permit for the nation's largest proposed mountaintop removal coal mine site, the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia. Sierra Club applauds EPA's recent efforts to apply greater scientific scrutiny to mining permits and is urging EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to take final action to prohibit this destructive mine.
March 26, 2010
On March 26, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended restricting or prohibiting mining at the nation’s largest proposed mountaintop removal coal mining site, the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia.
In response the Sierra Club's Director of Environmental Quality, Ed Hopkins, issued the following statement:
"It is good to see the EPA applying more scientifically rigorous analysis to these permits. The best available science tells us that proposed mines like the massive Spruce Mine would pollute waterways, destroy mountains and devastate communities.
"We hope that the agency follows through on this recommendation. This massive mine would bury seven miles of streams, destroy thousands of acres of land and disrupt local communities. Mountaintop removal coal mining is an egregious environmental injustice and an embarrassment for America.
"Local residents have been actively challenging the approval of this permit at the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County for more than twelve years. With the 40th anniversary of Earth Day approaching, it's time for the Obama administration to fix the Bush administration rulemaking that allows mines to fill waterways with waste."
Sierra Club hopes that EPA will apply the same close scientific scrutiny to the 79 applications for Clean Water Act permits for surface mines in Appalachia that are currently undergoing enhanced review.
Details and Documents:
Appalachian and National Groups Intervene in Support of EPA Veto of Mountaintop Removal Mining Operation
May 25, 2011, Sierra Club et al. Press Release
Sierra Club et al. Motion to Intervene
May 25, 2011, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Vetoes Proposed West Virginia Mountaintop Removal Mine
January 13, 2011, Sierra Club Press Release
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Final Determination Concerning the Spruce No. 1 Mine
Victory for Appalachians as a Determined EPA Recommends No More Mining at Biggest Proposed Moutaintop Removal Coal Mine
January 13, 2011
October 15, 2010, Sierra Club Press Release
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region III, Recommendation
September 24, 2010
EPA Proposes Veto of Mine Permit Under the Clean Water Act
March 26, 2010, EPA Press Release
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Proposed Determination
March 26, 2010
Clean Water and the Spruce Mine
March 27, 2012, The New York Times
Former EPA official says mine veto case may reach Supreme Court
December 5, 2011 by Manuel Quinones, Greenwire
EPA decision on Spruce No. 1 Mine big news in coalfields, beyond
January 14, 2011 by Debra McCown, Bristol Tricities
EPA Blasted as It Revokes Mine's Permit
January 14, 2011 by Stephen Power & Kris Maher, The Wallstreet Journal
Environmental Protection Agency pulls coal mine permit
January 13, 2011 by Patrick Reis, Politico
Breaking news: EPA vetoes Spruce Mine permit
January 13, 2011 by Ken Ward Jr., The Charleston Gazette
EPA vetoes water permit for W.Va. mountaintop mine
Judge extends stay of Spruce Mine suit
January 13, 2011 by Vicki Smith, Associated Press
November 3, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr., The Charleston Gazette
Mountaintop mining plans close to defeat
October 27, 2010 by Natasha Gilbert, Nature
E.P.A. Official Seeks to Block West Virginia Mine
October 15, 2010 by John M. Broder, The New York Times
Fate of W.Va. mine could be same for Wise Co.
March 27, 2010 by Debra McCown, Bristol Herald Courier
EPA proposes blocking largest mountaintop mine in West Virginia
March 26, 2010 by Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspaper
EPA Proposes Veto of the Largest Mountaintop Mine in West Virginia
March 26, 2010 by Mike Lillis, The Washington Independent
EPA moves to stop W.Va. coal mine that was issued federal permit
March 26, 2010 by David A. Fahrenthold, The Washington Post
Breaking news: EPA issues ‘proposed determination’ to block Clean Water Act permit for the largest mountaintop removal mine in W.Va. history
March 26, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr., The Charleston Gazette
See other "Stopping Mountaintop Removal and Other Destructive Mining" cases.