On March 20th, the Sierra Club, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition filed suit (S.D. W.V 3:12CV00785) against Elk Run Coal Company and Alex Energy, two coal mining companies. The suit alleges violations of the Clean Water Act.
The suit “alleges that mine runoff from five mines operated by Elk Run Coal Company and Alex Energy has contaminated the water in the Laurel Creek and Twentymile Creek watersheds with sulfate and other dissolved solids that make them toxic to aquatic life.”
The Sierra Club claims that the State or the EPA should have taken action, but since they didn’t these groups are forced to sue under the citizen enforcement provisions in the CWA. The suit is similar to one filed against Fola Coal Company, which ended in a settlement requiring the coal company to clean up the river.
The suit alleges violations of the “narrative” standards put in place by WV, which don’t sent numerical boundaries for pollutants. Instead they describe the limits in much more general terms, often focusing on the overall health of the river.
Groups Sue Two More Mining Companies for Endangering WV Streams (Sierra Club Press Release)
Environmental advocacy groups sue Boone, Nicholas county mines (The State Journal)
CONSOL agrees to stream cleanup settlement (Charleston Gazette)
West Virginia Narrative Water Quality Permitting Guidance