The Coal Report

Compiled by Jamie Goodman

WVDEP Required to Obtain Discharge Permits

According to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is required to obtain permits to discharge pollutants at abandoned coal mines. The decision upholds a ruling by a U.S. District court which faulted the DEP for violating the Clean Water Act with acid mine drainage.

The DEP appealed the initial decision in 2009, stating that since the agency did not create an abandoned site it was attempting to clean up, it should not have to obtain a permit to discharge acid mine drainage. The agency has not commented on future plans to appeal the new decision.

EPA Weighs ‘Major’ Discharge Classification For Select Coal Mine Water Permits

The EPA is considering reclassifying select coal mines as “major” dischargers under the Clean Water Act. The reclassification could render existing general permits ineligible and require mines to obtain individual water permits that include possible increased monitoring and enforcement.

Mining states could benefit from the new designation, gaining additional Clean Water Act grant money designed for water law programs. The reclassification, however, may meet resistance from industry officials opposing stricter controls and more frequent inspections by the EPA or authorized state regulators.

While states with a heavy mining presence could benefit from the change in designation, possibly gaining additional Clean Water Act grant monies aimed at helping states run delegated water law programs, some feel industry would likely fight such a move as it might force mine operators to comply with stricter controls and more frequent inspections by the EPA or state water law authorities.

Mediation in Rawl Water Lawsuit Fails

Story by Antrim Caskey

More than 600 Mingo County plaintiffs were required to appear at a mediation hearing in hopes of resolving a massive class-action lawsuit that was first filed in 2004.

Hundreds of residents and former residents of what is locally known as the “Forgotten Communities of Rt. 49” gathered at the West Virginia Supreme Court on November 15, in Charleston, W.Va. The plantiffs allege that Massey Energy’s Rawl Sales and Processing poisoned them through years of documented underground coal slurry injections into the region’s drinking water supply, claiming that massive illnesses that swept through their community were the result of “drinking coal sludge.”

After more than two days of meetings, the mediation efforts failed. The case will go to trial in August, 201l.

Check out Caskey’s Mountaintop Mining Watch series at

Special Update

Judy Bonds, winner of the 2004 Goldman Environmental prize and an iconic member in the movement to end mountaintop removal coal mining, is currently facing a different and more personal struggle. The Rock Creek, WV native-turned-activist is undergoing chemotherapy treatments for stage 4 cancer. Individuals interested in sending well-wishes to Judy are encouraged to write her at P.O. Box 135, Rock Creek, WV, 25174.


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