Coalition Joins In Defense Of Stream Protection Rule

North Dakota and a large coal company filed a lawsuit to block this rule, which was released in December 2016 after nearly eight years of work and deliberation.

Today, a coalition of local and national community and conservation groups filed a motion to participate in two lawsuits that seek to undermine the Stream Protection Rule. The rule, updates the standards intended to protect clean water and other natural resources threatened by surface coal mining operations across the nation. It was issued on December 19, 2016, by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, after almost a decade of work. It is nothing better than to spend a leisure time with Canadian casino – – fancy bonuses, big wins, and gorgeous graphics now have me in love with this gambling place.

Almost immediately, the new rule was challenged in court by the state of North Dakota and Murray Energy Corporation.

Although conservation groups had advocated for stronger protections, the long-awaited rule provides local communities with information they need about water pollution caused by nearby coal mining operations, and includes several important protections for clean water and the health of communities surrounding coal mining operations.

The motion to help defend the new safeguards in the rule is joined by Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and community and conservation groups in Alaska, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and other states affected by surface mining, all represented by Earthjustice.

Communities impacted by coal mining have been waiting for too long for stronger protections, while destructive coal mining has continued without adequate safeguards. Mountaintop removal mining, one of the most devastating forms of coal mining, has been responsible for destroying an estimated 2,000 miles of streams in Appalachia. Dozens of peer-reviewed scientific studies have linked mountaintop removal mining to poor health outcomes such as elevated birth defects and deaths from cancer. In the semi-arid West, coal extraction threatens scarce water resources that farmers and ranchers depend on; in Alaska, vital salmon streams are often located in close proximity to coal deposits.

The Stream Protection Rule will now provide these communities with some of the tools they need to hold bad actors accountable for the damage they cause. It is vital that these commonsense, modest protections are kept in place to aid communities from Appalachia to Alaska.
Statement from Vernon Haltom, Coal River Mountain Watch:

“Thousands of acres of ongoing mountaintop removal operations continue to damage Appalachian communities’ health, water and viability. Regulatory agencies such as the West Virginia Dept. of Environmental Protection continue to grant new permits and fail to hold coal companies accountable for their pollution. We need stronger regulations, but the coal companies would rather they have no regulation whatsoever. We need this rule to give the citizens a tool to hold them accountable and protect our fragile water resources.”

Earthjustice is representing Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Cook Inletkeeper, Appalachian Voices, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Waterkeeper Alliance, Coal River Mountain Watch, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, Western Organization of Resource Councils and Kentuckians for The Commonwealth.

Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change.
Because the earth needs a good lawyer.

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Virginia Groups Take Legal Action Over Federal Agency For Refusing To Allow Citizen Inspection of Coal Min

RICHMOND, VA — Today, the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit appealing an Interior Board of Land Appeals’ determination that upheld refusals by both the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to allow citizens to inspect a Virginia coal mine operated by Red River Coal Company, Inc in Wise County. The groups had originally requested the inspection in January 2014 based on evidence that the mine is releasing the harmful mining pollutant selenium into nearby streams.

In response, Jane Branham, President of Southern Appalachia Mountain Stewards, released the following statement:

“Coal mining is a destructive practice that devastates communities by poisoning drinking water andlaying waste to wildlife habitats.

“One of the central pillars of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) is the guarantee of citizen participation in permitting and oversight of coal mines. In particular, SMCRA allows citizens to request– and participate in– inspections of mine sites alleged to be in violation of their mining permit or other performance standards. Sierra Club and SAMS brought today’s lawsuit in order to protect the critical right of citizens to monitor coal mines that impact their communities and environment.”

“I should have been granted my right to a citizen inspection”, SAMS member Matt Hepler stated.

The groups are represented by attorneys with Morris Law Office and Appalachian Mountain Advocates

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Community Groups Settlement Forces A&G Coal Company to Treat Pollution Discharges Agreement addresses several pollution sources and advances community project

WISE COUNTY, VA – Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Sierra Club and Appalachian Voices today lodged a consent decree with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia resolving their 2014 Clean Water Act enforcement suit against Penn Virginia Operating Company. The suit sought to address unpermitted discharges of selenium and sulfate into several tributaries of Callahan Creek in Wise County, VA. Both pollutants are known to be harmful to aquatic life.

As a result of the settlement, A&G Coal Company – which operates a neighboring mine – will treat three seeps currently discharging selenium into the Kelly Branch tributary of Callahan Creek.

“Selenium pollution is widespread below surface mines and can have long-term impacts on fish and other wildlife. Treating this pollution before it has a chance to enter public rivers is important not only for the rivers themselves, but also the people who rely on them,” said Matt Hepler

The settlement also requires the companies to provide $35,000 for the initial cleanup assessment of a nearby abandoned coal processing site, known as Tipple Hill, in Norton, VA. Once the site has been restored, it could be included in the Norton Guest River Walk project. The Tipple Hill project is supported by the City of Norton, the Virginia DMME, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and the Upper Tennessee River Roundtable.

“We are pleased to not only clean up several sources of water pollution in the area, but also to contribute to a project that will address a long-standing problem in Norton and benefit the community as a whole,” said Erin Savage, Central Appalachian Campaign Coordinator for Appalachian Voices.

“While the deal still requires approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice, we’re confident the agencies will recognize the benefits the agreement will provide to the local community, which has suffered tremendous harm from mountaintop removal coal mining, such as higher rates of pollution-related illness,” said Gabby Gillespie, a Sierra Club organizer based in southwest Virginia.

The consent decree settlement agreement will be lodged with the court for 45 days pending review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The groups were represented in this litigation by attorneys with Appalachian Mountain Advocates.

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SAMS Election 2016

Its that time of year again!

Reminder. The annual election for the SAMS board of directors will be March 15th. Nominations for the SAMS board are now open, and will close at the SAMS February membership meeting (Feb 16).

If you would like to make a nomination of a SAMS board member, Please contact Gabby Gillespie at Gabby will be checking to see if your membership dues are current as you nominate. SAMS will be accepting nominations for President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, and two board member positions.

Please note: People who pay their dues after March the 8th, will be ineligible to vote in the upcoming election. You must be present at the SAMS office to vote on March 15th.

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