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Two MTR Mines Challenged in Court

October 23, 2008

Charleston, WV – Plans for two mountaintop removal mines in West Virginia will face scrutiny in court. Several public health and environmental groups have filed a lawsuit, alleging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers overlooked environmental damage in approving the mines for Nicholas and Clay Counties.

Vivian Stockman, project coordinator for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, says the Corps' own findings detail how up to two-thirds of streams in the area have already been damaged by previous projects. She says the new mines would bury more than five additional miles of waterways.

"They're headwater streams, and they're crucial to the healthy functioning of pretty much all life downstream. All of us live downstream."

The suit also alleges the public was not allowed to offer input on the plans, which Stockman says is required by law. Local residents have a lot to say about the impact on their quality of life, she adds, including how burying natural streams has already changed the natural flow of rainwater in the area.

"In times of heavy rains that would ordinarily have produced some swollen streams, now we're seeing flooding."

She says some areas are also experiencing dangerous levels of selenium in drinking water supplies because of upstream mining. Mining companies claim their environmental damage is limited, and that the newly-leveled land left when they're finished is suitable for development. Mountaintop removal allows most of the coal to be mined; other methods leave coal behind.

Deborah Smith/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - WV