Applicable Laws, Terms & Definitions

  • The Clean Water Act: prohibits anyone from discharging pollutants from a point source into waters of the United States without a permit, and allows citizens to file lawsuits against companies that are unlawfully discharging without a permit or in violation of the terms of their permit. The Surface, Mining, Control and Reclamation Act generally prohibits coal mining operations from causing “material damage” to water resources.  Other laws also apply.

  • Clean Water Act Section 502 General Definitions

    • Point Source: is very broadly defined under the law as - Any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, including but not limited to any pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, container, rolling stock, concentrated animal feeding operation, or vessel or other floating craft, from which pollutants are or may be discharged

      • Virtually all coal mining operations discharge pollution from “point sources”, such as pipes

    • Pollutant: is broadly defined to mean- The man-made or man-induced alteration of the chemical, physical, biological, and radiological integrity of water

      • Courts have routinely concluded coal mining waste is a “pollutant”

    • Discharge of Pollutants:  (A) any addition of any pollutant to navigable waters from any point source, (B) any addition of any pollutant to the waters of the contiguous zone or the ocean from any point source other than a vessel or other floating craft

      • Virtually all coal mines in our region discharge toxic pollutants, and continue to do so even after the mines have been reclaimed

  • Waters of the United States: are broadly defined under the statue and applicable case law to include navigable streams and their tributaries, including Appalachia headwater streams

  • General Terms & Acronyms

    • DMME - Virginia Department of Mines and Minerals & Energy: Virginia agency charged with enforcement and regulation of resource extraction within the state

    • NPDES - National Pollution Discharge Elimination System: Addresses water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants to waters of the United States

    • OSMRE - Office of Surface Mining Reclamation & Enforcement: A bureau within the United States Department of the Interior. OSMRE is responsible for establishing a nationwide program to protect society and the environment from the adverse effects of surface coal mining operations, under which OSMRE is charged with balancing the nation’s need for continued domestic coal production with protection of the environment

    • SMCRA - Surface Mining Control & Reclamation Act of 1977: the primary federal law that regulates the environmental effects of coal mining in the United States. SMCRA created two programs: one for regulating active coal mines and a second for reclaiming abandoned mine lands