Coalition Joins In Defense Of Stream Protection Rule

North Dakota and a large coal company filed a lawsuit to block this rule, which was released in December 2016 after nearly eight years of work and deliberation.

Today, a coalition of local and national community and conservation groups filed a motion to participate in two lawsuits that seek to undermine the Stream Protection Rule. The rule, updates the standards intended to protect clean water and other natural resources threatened by surface coal mining operations across the nation. It was issued on December 19, 2016, by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, after almost a decade of work.

Almost immediately, the new rule was challenged in court by the state of North Dakota and Murray Energy Corporation.

Although conservation groups had advocated for stronger protections, the long-awaited rule provides local communities with information they need about water pollution caused by nearby coal mining operations, and includes several important protections for clean water and the health of communities surrounding coal mining operations.

The motion to help defend the new safeguards in the rule is joined by Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and community and conservation groups in Alaska, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and other states affected by surface mining, all represented by Earthjustice.

Communities impacted by coal mining have been waiting for too long for stronger protections, while destructive coal mining has continued without adequate safeguards. Mountaintop removal mining, one of the most devastating forms of coal mining, has been responsible for destroying an estimated 2,000 miles of streams in Appalachia. Dozens of peer-reviewed scientific studies have linked mountaintop removal mining to poor health outcomes such as elevated birth defects and deaths from cancer. In the semi-arid West, coal extraction threatens scarce water resources that farmers and ranchers depend on; in Alaska, vital salmon streams are often located in close proximity to coal deposits.

The Stream Protection Rule will now provide these communities with some of the tools they need to hold bad actors accountable for the damage they cause. It is vital that these commonsense, modest protections are kept in place to aid communities from Appalachia to Alaska.
Statement from Vernon Haltom, Coal River Mountain Watch:

“Thousands of acres of ongoing mountaintop removal operations continue to damage Appalachian communities’ health, water and viability. Regulatory agencies such as the West Virginia Dept. of Environmental Protection continue to grant new permits and fail to hold coal companies accountable for their pollution. We need stronger regulations, but the coal companies would rather they have no regulation whatsoever. We need this rule to give the citizens a tool to hold them accountable and protect our fragile water resources.”

Earthjustice is representing Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Cook Inletkeeper, Appalachian Voices, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Waterkeeper Alliance, Coal River Mountain Watch, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, Western Organization of Resource Councils and Kentuckians for The Commonwealth.

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Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change.
Because the earth needs a good lawyer.

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