Community Groups Hold Pocahontas Land Corporation Accountable for Water Pollution from Mountaintop Removal Coal Mine in Legal Settlement

Contact: Rudhdi Karnik, Rudhdi.Karnik@sierraclub.org, 202-495-3055

MINGO COUNTY, WV — Today, corporate landowner Pocahontas Land Corporation agreed in a legal settlement to apply for a Clean Water Act permit for its ongoing pollution at the former White Flame mountaintop removal mine in Mingo County, West Virginia. When the mine was shuttered, all of the permits pertaining to mining were released, meaning the company that profited from ownership of the mine was no longer held responsible for ongoing water pollution generated by the remaining mine waste disposal sites. Nevertheless, citizen monitoring revealed that the mine is discharging the mine pollutants selenium and conductivity at levels harmful to aquatic life.

“This agreement is a critical first step in ensuring that all the pollution caused by years of coal mining is cleaned up,” said Jim Kotcon, Chair of the West Virginia Sierra Club. “We’re thrilled that this settlement with Pocahontas will lead to a new clean water permit for the mine. However, this lawsuit should also serve as a reminder of the harm caused by surface coal mines, and the legacy of polluted sites that the industry threatens to leave for all West Virginians. We still want to know why West Virginia released this and other similar permits while the sites were still polluting our streams.”

“Step by step, minesite by minesite, it’s ever so important that industry step up to its responsibility to treat water that has been damaged by the disruption of the earth and the waste produced during coal production and use,” said Cindy Rank of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.  “Better by far would be that permits likely to result in water pollution not be granted or released in the first place. The programmatic prevention of such pollution by stronger more forward looking permitting by WV DEP is long overdue.”

“Our lawsuit demonstrated that, once again, the state of West Virginia let a mountaintop removal company off the hook for illegal water contamination when it declared this former mountaintop removal site to be safe and returned the company’s bond money,” said Dianne Bady of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. “There will be more work to be done on this in the future, because even after the company receives a permit, we will need to be vigilant and make sure the pollution from the site doesn’t exceed the permit limits. No one else is going to do that work.”

The settlement resolves a lawsuit brought by Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.  The groups are represented by attorneys with Appalachian Mountain Advocates.

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