RICHMOND, VA — Today, the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit appealing an Interior Board of Land Appealsâ€™ 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:
â€œCoal mining is a destructive practice that devastates communities by poisoning drinking water andlaying waste to wildlife habitats.
â€œOne 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 todayâ€™s lawsuit in order to protect the critical right of citizens to monitor coal mines that impact their communities and environment.â€
“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