Press Release

Community groups challenge Trump Administration’s rule for coal mining violations

CONTACT:

Aimee Erickson, Citizens Coal Council, Executive Director, aimee@citizenscoalcouncil.org
Thomas Young, Sierra Club, thomas.young@sierraclub.org
Erin Savage, Appalachian Voices, erin@appvoices.org

Washington, DC — A coalition of environmental and community groups today brought a challenge to a Trump Administration rule designed to make it harder for communities impacted by coal mining to hold state regulators and mining companies accountable for violating environmental protections.

The groups — Citizens Coal Council, Appalachian Voices, and Sierra Club — filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement’s final Ten-Day Notice Rule. The rule is also eligible for blockage under the Congressional Review Act. The groups bringing today’s lawsuit are represented by attorney Tom FitzGerald with the Kentucky Resources Council.

View the legal filing

Under the prior rule, upon receipt of a community member’s credible allegations of violations at a mine site, OSMRE was required to immediately impose a ten-day deadline on the state regulator to resolve the violation. If, at the end of the ten days, the state did not adequately justify its response to the violation allegations, OSMRE officials would conduct their own investigation at the mine.

The Trump rule inserts a new process under which OSMRE and the state would conduct a pre-investigation investigation. At best, this new process will significantly delay actions to address violations. At worst, it will allow OSMRE and state regulators to avoid addressing these violations entirely. In addition, the Trump rule exempts actions by state regulators — such as the issuance of defective permits — from the types of violations subject to direct federal oversight.

The organizations bringing today’s lawsuit released the following statements:

“This Ten-Day Notice rule is intended to reduce the number of federal inspections and ten-day notices, rather than—as the SMCRA statute requires—making sure the state regulatory authority timely addresses violations of the law and permit,” said Aimee Erickson, Executive Director of Citizens Coal Council.

“Appalachian Voices works directly with community members to address the impacts of surface coal mining, including well water pollution, flooding, landslides, and dust problems. Often, we can solve these issues by working with state agencies, or sometimes even directly with coal companies,” said Erin Savage, Senior Program Manager with Appalachian Voices. “When those avenues fail us, it is imperative that we can request the oversight of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Without that backstop, some state agencies and coal companies would be much less willing to follow laws that protect communities.”

“I’ve grown up around coal mining my whole life and I’ve watched how the coal companies infringe upon people’s land and water across my community, but at least the people had an effective avenue to address their concerns,” says Millstone, Kentucky resident and Sierra Club member, Matthew Taylor. “Trump’s changes to the Ten-Day Notice rule put people, and the health and safety of their families, at a serious disadvantage when trying to hold coal companies accountable for damage and environmental threats near their homes.”

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Appalachian Voices is a leading nonprofit advocate for a healthy environment and just economy in the Appalachian region, and a driving force in America’s shift from fossil fuels to a clean energy future.

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