Federal Court Ruling Protects Appalachian Waters

A federal appeals court has sided with the EPA to uphold a policy to scrutinize pollution from severe mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia, helping protect the waters and surrounding communities.

In order to protect Appalachia from mining pollution, a federal court ruling has agreed with the EPA policies currently in place. The EPA policies were based on recent scientific studies showing that pollution from mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia can degrade water quality in violation of federal Clean Water Act standards.

One of those studies found that nine out of every 10 streams downstream from mountaintop removal mining were impaired. Another study found elevated levels of highly toxic selenium in streams downstream from mountaintop removal mining sites.

“This is an important step in protecting our mountain streams from the toxic discharge from mountain top removal operations and in protecting the Appalachian people from further health impacts from this destructive practice,” said Jane Branham of Virginia-based Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards. “We are so relieved by this court decision because historically, our state regulatory agencies have failed to enforce existing laws. We have needed this stronger oversight by the EPA to ensure that states protect Appalachian communities.”

The coalition was represented by Earthjustice and Appalachian Mountain Advocates. The groups included seven conservation and social justice groups — Coal River Mountain Watch (WV), Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (VA), Sierra Club, and Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (TN).

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