Appalachian Voices has joined the Sierra Club and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards in filing suit against A & G Coal Corporation in Virginia. The suit, represented by the environmental law firm Appalachian Mountain Advocates, alleges that A & G has been polluting Virginia’s public waterways through unpermitted discharge of selenium. The unpermitted discharge violates both the Clean Water Act and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.
Selenium is a naturally occurring element in some rock layers in Central Appalachia. Left in the ground, its toxic properties do not cause harm. However, surface mining can release this element into streams, where it accumulates in fish and other aquatic life, causing deformities and reproductive failure.
Frasure Creek Update
In April, the Supreme Court of Kentucky ruled in favor of Appalachian Voices and our partners Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Waterkeeper Alliance and the Kentucky Riverkeeper. The ruling upheld a lower court decision that allows us to intervene in a settlement between Frasure Creek Mining and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.
The original lawsuit brought against Frasure Creek Mining and International Coal Group in 2010 was for 20,000 violations of the Clean Water Act with potential penalties of over $700 million. Violations listed in the suit included false and potentially fraudulent reporting of water pollution levels. The coal companies reached a settlement agreement with the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet of $670,000, less than one percent of the allowable fines, and Appalachian Voices and partners decided to intervene.
The Supreme Court decision stands as confirmation of citizens’ rights to take part in the enforcing of the Clean Water Act. Despite this provision in the federal law, the Kentucky cabinet opposed Appalachian Voices’ intervention and joined Frasure Creek in appealing the Circuit Court decision that allowed us to intervene.
The case is currently in court-ordered mediation, and settlement talks are ongoing.
For more information about our Appalachian Water Watch work, visit appvoices.org/waterwatch.