Coalition Acts to End Water Pollution at Former Coal Mines

For Immediate Release
July 30, 2012

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Sean Sarah, Sierra Club,, 202 548-4589
Glen Besa, Virginia Sierra Club,, 804 225-9113
Matt Helper, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, , 540 871-1564
Tom Cormons, Appalachian Voices,, 434 293-6373
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Coalition Acts to End Water Pollution at Former Coal Mines
Groups Seek to Ensure Land Formerly Used as Surface Mines No Longer Pollute Waterways

Roanoke, VA – Today, a coalition of citizen and environmental groups filed an action with the U.S. District Court of Western Virginia claiming that Penn Virginia Resource Partners (NYSE: PVR) is violating Clean Water Act protections at 14 locations on 7 former surface mining sites in Wise County, Virginia. For the first time, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Appalachian Voices and the Sierra Club are seeking to ensure that the owner of lands formerly used as surface mines is held accountable to critical clean water protections.

“The fact that there are still major pollution problems at these sites shows that the environmental destruction caused by mountaintop removal mining continues long after mining operations are concluded,” said Glen Besa, Director of the Sierra Club, Virginia Chapter. “Large out-of-state landholding companies like Penn Virginia must be held accountable for the pollution problems caused by leasing their land to the coal industry, so that the taxpayers don’t end up having to foot the bill.”

Penn Virginia Resource Partners, based out of Radnor, Pennsylvania owns more than fifty five hundred acres of land in Wise County worth more than $13 million. On its website, Penn Virginia Resource Partners describes itself as a publicly traded limited partnership that owns “coal and natural resource properties, located in the Appalachian, Illinois and San Juan basins” and these lands “are leased to experienced operators in exchange for royalty payments.”

“Penn Virginia has for decades been buying up land and leasing it to coal companies that have been polluting our streams, blowing up our mountains, and destroying our communities and culture,” said Matt Helper an Organizer for Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards. “They need to be held accountable for the pollution problems that these mines sites are still causing decades after they were closed down.”

Pollution from surface mines is not limited to ones currently in operation. Because the ultimate source of the pollution comes from valley fills and other material that remains on site, abandoned, and even reclaimed, mined sites continue to discharge pollution. In many cases the owners of former mine sites do not have Clean Water Act discharge permits for these sites. Typically, these owners are large land holding companies who also own active mountaintop removal coal mining sites. Federal and state regulators typically do not monitor the discharges from these former mine sites.

“The failure to address these longstanding sources of pollution shows a disregard for the health of the people, land and water in this severely impacted area,” says Tom Cormons of Appalachian Voices. “This lawsuit is about holding Penn Virginia accountable and ensuring that they finally address this serious problem.”

The Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards are represented in this matter by Joe Lovett of Appalachian Mountain Advocates.