Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
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May 2007

MAJOR VICTORY: Corps Must Halt New Valley Fills!
Quantum Leadership: The Power of Community in Motion
OVEC Members Mourn with Virginia Tech
Clean Drinking Water at Long Last!
12 Ways to Give $$$ to OVEC to Keep Up the Fight
April 2: Rare Banner Day in US Supreme Court for the Environment
Sludge Safety Project Update - OVEC Wins!
What It Takes to Win the Fight: ORGANIZE!
Griles Grilled, Convicted Over Ties to Lobbyist
No Picnic, Mo Money
Christians for the
Mountains Night
Sludge Safety Project Leaders Reflect on Our Big Win
Voices from the Coalfields ... and Beyond
More Say No to Mine: Lenore Residents Appeal Mingo County Permit
Time For an SOS Save Our Flying Squirrels!
Activists Form Coalition to Fight MTR Abuses
OVEC Works! Thanks!
Thirteen Arrested in Struggle for New Marsh Fork Elementary School
Organizing Cabin Creek: A conversation about power, grit and why were gonna win
Army, DEP: Lets Make a Deal (with Coalfield Residents Health!)
Fight Renewed Over Streamlined Mine Permits
West Virginians Trained By Al Gore To Present on Climate Change
New Book: How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Christian?
OVEC Board Meets
in Boone County
The Time for Climate Change Solutions is NOW
OVEC Launches New Global Warming Action Page on its Website
Welcome to Carol Warren, OVECs Newest Staff Member
Cost-Effective Carbon Footprint Reducers - Things YOU Can Do
Countrys Leading Climatologist Lists 5 Steps to Prevent Catastrophic Change
Campaign Cash: Public Financing Works in Other States
The Seasonal Round of Americas Mixed Mesophytic Community Forest - A Resource for the Entire Planet
Dispelling the Myths About Fair and Clean Elections
Regional Environmental Groups Organize to Stop MTR
The Billion Dollar
Presidents Club
Editorial Comics
New Economists Have Different View
West Virginia Putting Out More CO2

For viewing the PDF version of the newsletter

Winds of Change Newsletter, May 2007     See sidebar for table of contents
A valley fill with the Corps idea of "streams" on either side. Hurry along folks, no significant impacts to be seen here

A valley fill with the Corps idea of "streams" on either side. Hurry along folks, no significant impacts to be seen here. photo by Giles Ashford, www.ashford7.com.


Corps Must Halt New Valley Fills!

(Excerpted and adapted from news reports by Ken Ward Jr. of the Charleston Gazette, the Associated Press and other sources.)

In March, a federal judge blocked permits for four mountaintop removal mines, in a major ruling that could force much tougher regulation of West Virginias coal industry.

Citing the "alarming cumulative stream loss" to valley fills, U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers ruled that more thorough reviews of the mines potential impacts must be done before permits can be approved.

Chambers rescinded four permits issued to subsidiaries of Massey Energy, and sent the mine proposals back to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a more detailed study.

"The families whose homes, communities, day-to-day life and general well-being are at risk from mountaintop removal are right in speaking out. These permits should have not been issued in the first place. Judge Chambers has ruled that the massive destruction of mountaintop removal is improperly permitted. It is the same practice that continues to take jobs from underground miners in the first place."

Chuck Nelson, former deep miner

His ruling has been expected for months, following a six-day trial in Huntington in October 2006.

"Judge Chambers is the third federal judge to find that the corps actions permitting mountaintop removal violate the Clean Water Act," said Joe Lovett, of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment. "Its clear that the Corps has been permitting the destruction of southern West Virginia without complying with the most fundamental federal environmental laws."

The case was filed by OVEC, WV Highlands Conservancy and Coal River Mountain Watch. Along with Lovett, attorneys from the Washington, D.C.-based group Earthjustice represented the groups. Although the judges decision involves just four mines, the groups believe it will affect more than 30 pending permits for surface mines in West Virginia, as well as permits in other states.

The four permits at issue would strip about 3,800 acres of hills and hollows, and bury more than 12 miles of streams, according to court records and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection data.

Between 1985 and 2001, more than 1,200 miles of Appalachian streams were buried or otherwise damaged by mountaintop removal, according to a federal government study. Without additional restrictions, the May 2003 study projected, a total of 2,200 square miles of Appalachian forests would be eliminated.

The case before Chambers is a follow-up lawsuit to Judge Joseph Goodwins earlier ruling, which blocked the Corps from reviewing valley fill proposals through a streamlined "general permit" process.

With their new case, the groups argue that the Corps was wrong to approve mining operations through more detailed "individual permit" reviews.

The judge said the Corps must conduct "a full assessment of the streams ecological functions" before concluding that damage would be minimal or that damage can be offset with various "mitigation" techniques.

He blasted the Corps consistent finding that sediment ditches built on mine sites can be turned into man-made streams that adequately replace the headwaters creeks that are buried by mining.

Chambers also found that the Corps did not properly consider the cumulative impacts of the proposed permits, along with existing and previous mining in the area. He said the agency might decide that an environmental impact statement is needed for each permit.

"Moreover," the judge wrote, "while surface mining is heavily regulated by federal and state agencies, Congress mandated that the corps maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nations waters, which may require the corps ultimately to deny the permits if the adverse impacts to the waters are significant."

In April, the judge suspended parts of his ruling so that Massey can continue to dump waste rock and dirt into valley fills already started at three of the four operations. But Massey's new, planned valley fills cannot be started.

The judge essentially said the streams at stake were already irreversibly harmed.

Over the past seven years, two federal judges in West Virginia have issued rulings to more tightly regulate mountaintop removal, in response to lawsuits by OVEC and others.

Both of those rulings were overturned by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

Massey, based in Richmond, had intervened in the case and will appeal the ruling, but, according to Mulhern with Earthjustice, "A successful appeal will be difficult this time. Theres no evidence in the trial record to support the Corps claims."


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