Appalachian Voices, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance today sent Nally and Hamilton a 60-day Notice of Intent to sue over additional Clean Water Act violations with potential penalties of more than $180 million.
Based on a review of state water monitoring reports, the coalition identified more than 5,000 additional violations of the Clean Water Act on top of the 12,000 violations previously discovered in March.
“The undeniable pattern of coal companies blatantly disregarding the law in Kentucky is nothing new to our coalfield citizens,” said Suzanne Tallichet with Kentuckians For The Commonwealth. “Their ongoing pollution of the rivers and streams that our citizens rely on for drinking water is precisely why more and more health studies link mountaintop removal coal mining to a whole host of human health impacts from cancer to birth defects in babies.”
Just like the previous violations discovered in March, the new information shows the company used the same data in permit reports month after month, rather than submitting the results of any monitoring and testing that it might have done. This is a continuing problem that has occurred at more than a dozen Nally and Hamilton operations in five eastern Kentucky counties from October 2006 through March 2011, according to the coalition. These groups previously identified the same pattern of violations committed by ICG and Frasure Creek coal companies, which also submitted false or fraudulent water monitoring data.
“Every time we exposed the violations by Nally and Hamilton, ICG, and Frasure Creek mining in October, March, and June, the state agency said they would start reviewing water test results submitted by coal companies and start enforcing the law,” said Marc Yaggi, Executive Director of Waterkeeper Alliance. “They had the same opportunity we did to find and bring an enforcement action for these newly discovered Clean Water Act violations, but instead of them stepping up and announcing their own legal action today, we have to do their job for them – no one in government seems to have the backbone to make coal companies abide by the law in Kentucky.”
Falsifying monitoring reports is another in a long list of recent allegations against the coal industry, which is under widespread pressure to clean up its destructive practices and take responsibility for its enormous and devastating ecological footprint.
“State officials in our Department of Natural Resources and Division of Water are supposed to protect citizens and the environment from lawless acts by scofflaw polluters,” Tallichet said. “Instead they are part of the overall problem that we intend to resolve through legal action. That is our right and duty as U.S. citizens under the Clean Water Act.”
Under the Clean Water Act, the company has 60 days to respond to the allegations made in the notice letter. If all violations have not been corrected at the end of 60 days, or the state has not preempted the suit, the groups plan on filing suit.