April 1, 2009
Elizabeth Maclin (202) 431-2676
Erin Mooney (571) 331-7970
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Trout Unlimited Applauds Federal Judge’s Decision to Prevent West Virginia Mountaintop Removal Mining Companies From Filling Valleys With Mining Waste
ARLINGTON, Va. ---Trout Unlimited (TU) applauds Tuesday’s ruling by a federal judge that will stop federal regulators from using a nationwide permit to approve mining companies’ requests to fill West Virginia valleys and streams with materials from mountaintop removal mining.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin prevents the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from authorizing new mountaintop mining operations through its nationwide permit process. In mountaintop removal mining, the tops of mountains are blasted away and the valleys and streams below are filled with waste rock and debris.
“It’s ludicrous that the Army Corps was using a nationwide permit—essentially a rubber stamp—to allow such a destructive practice,” said Elizabeth Maclin, Trout Unlimited’s Vice President of Eastern Conservation. “This is a huge win for West Virginia’s rivers.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and Coal River Mountain Watch brought the case to court, challenging the decision by the Corps to allow discharge of mining waste into valleys and streams.
The court found that the Corps had ignored the past impacts of similar mining in deciding not to prepare an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act.
The ruling also found that the Corps assumed that the impacts to streams and other water bodies would be adequately offset by “mitigation” measures, such as constructing drainage channels to replace destroyed natural streams. The court ruled that the Corps did not have an adequate plan to monitor mitigation efforts or require corrective action.
This decision comes on the heels of a March decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to put two mountaintop removal coal-mining projects in Appalachia through further review because of the EPA’s belief “that the proposed project[s] will result in substantial and unacceptable impacts to aquatic resources of national importance.”
Mountaintop removal mining has buried or degraded nearly 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams to date as well as caused additional harm to downstream areas by introducing sediment pollution, altering stream hydrology, and increasing flooding.
Mountaintop removal mining practices create a survival risk for brook trout and other wild trout populations, and impede efforts to restore brook trout in already degraded watersheds. Many streams in the Appalachian Mountains subject to mountaintop removal mining are, or historically were, habitat for brook trout. Brook trout currently live in only a fraction of their original range.
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s largest coldwater conservation organization, with 140,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring North America’s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. In 2009, Trout Unlimited celebrates its 50th anniversary.