Washington (January 19, 2017) – (RealEstateRama) — 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, an update to the standards intended to protect clean water and other natural resources threatened by surface coal mining operations across the nation, was issued 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. And yesterday, Ohio, West Virginia, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Texas, Utah and Wyoming filed their own legal challenge to the rule.
Most of these states are also appealing to Congress to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA), an arcane procedure that gives Congress the power to stop regulations that were developed by scientists and other experts and commented upon by the public and the affected industry. The Stream Protection Rule generated more than 150,000 comments during the lengthy public comment period that included 15 public meetings across the country.
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.
In filing this motion, Defenders of Wildlife joins Earthjustice, which represents national conservation organizations such as the Sierra Club and community and conservation groups in Alaska, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and other states affected by surface mining.
Communities adversely affected 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, and hold the mining industry accountable for harming wildlife and habitat. It is vital that these commonsense, modest protections are kept in place to aid communities from Appalachia to Alaska.
Statement from Defenders of Wildlife Senior Staff Attorney Jane Davenport:
“This rule is good news for human health and wildlife alike. For 20 years, mining activity has filled streams with dirty water, destroyed wildlife habitat and irrevocably altered entire landscapes forever. The Stream Protection Rule will finally provide meaningful protection for important wildlife habitat and drinking water supplies for millions of people. The states that are challenging this rule seek to maintain the status quo, where mining companies are free to dump their wastes into our streams. Defenders of Wildlife will vigorously defend this critically-important rule in the courts and, if need be, in Congress.”
Statement from Earthjustice attorney Emma Cheuse:
“All Americans, from Alaska to Appalachia, deserve common sense protections for clean water, and that’s why we just can’t send our nation back in time and let the coal industry do whatever it likes to local communities’ water and natural areas.”
Defenders of Wildlife is filing this motion on behalf of its more than 1.2 million members and supporters; Earthjustice is representing Sierra Club, 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.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.
Contact: Haley McKey, 202-772-0247