Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
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December 2007

Judge: Valley Fill Damages Trump $$$ Lost
20 Years of Standing Our Ground
Changing Course: Windcall and the Art of Renewal
Highlights of OVECs History 20 Years of STANDING OUR GROUND
State Supreme Court Upholds Verdict Against Coal Company Over Destroyed Water Wells
Sludge Safety Project Makes Progress on Study
OSM Gets an Earful on Plan to Weaken Mining Rules
65 Percent of Americans Oppose Bush Plan for Buffer Zone Rules 
West Virginia Council of Churches Statement on Mountaintop Removal
Good Blue Dogs Helping to Raise Funds for OVEC This Christmas
Praying for the Land and People Victimized by MTR
Update on Blair Mountain
Strip Mining Damages Nature
A Note from Maria Gunnoe
David vs. Goliath Award Goes to OVECs Boone County Organizer
Tips on Writing a Letter to the Editor - Do It TODAY!
Clean Politics = Public Financing - It Really Is That Simple
Clean Elections: Control How You Pay for Politics
Piper Funds Challenge Grant Goal Exceeded! THANKS!!!!!
Eastern Panhandle Woman Pushes for Clean Elections
Why Dont Regulators Do Their Jobs? OVEC Answers
Delegate Wants Public Financing Law
OVEC Works! Thanks!
Public Energy Authority Not Serving Public: Manchins Coal-to-Liquids Energy Plan Gets Little Support
Mingo Residents Gather to Celebrate, Better their County
The Appalachian Adventure
Oh, Yeah, That's A Great Spot for A Mountaintop Removal Mine!
This Summers Story Voices of Those Hurt by Mountaintop Removal Mining
Ink Cartridge Recycling Program Sinks, But You Can Still EAT FOR OVEC
This Cant Happen in America, Can It?  No, Only in Central Appalachia - So Far

For viewing the PDF version of the newsletter

Winds of Change Newsletter, December 2007     See sidebar for table of contents

Judge: Valley Fill Damages Trump $$$ Lost

On October 11, a federal judge ruled in our favor and stopped a coal company from starting new valley fills at Jupiter Holdings Callisto mine in Boone County.

Bim resident Dorsey Green, whose home in Dry Branch Hollow is very close to one of the blocked valley fills, was relieved by the judges decision.

"I am so thankful for this ruling. Ive been a coal miner my whole life and this valley fill would have destroyed my homeplace and everything I have worked for," Green said. "I have spent many sleepless nights thinking about the terrible representation we as a community get from our regulatory agencies. This ruling will restore my sleep and my retirement years."

OVEC, Coal River Mountain Watch and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, represented by the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, Earthjustice and Public Justice, challenged the valley fill permit based on earlier legal victories.

In granting our motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers noted that we "made a strong showing that the permits issued by the Corps are arbitrary and capricious, contrary to law, and contrary to the economic and environmental balance struck by Congress in the passage of the relevant environmental statutes."

The order halts the mining companys plan to begin new valley fill activities at the site until the court can rule on our challenge to Callistos permit.

"The judge just gave hope to other affected residents that live in communities near this type of destructive, illegal mining," said Judy Bonds of Coal River Mountain Watch.

On Oct. 12, in "Boone County mountaintop removal project blocked," Ken Ward, Jr. of the Charleston Gazette reported:

Chambers ruled that permanent damage to streams and forests outweighed temporary and speculative economic harm to the company.

"Money can be earned, lost and earned again," Chambers wrote in a 12-page opinion, "a valley once filled is gone."

...Chambers ruled in March that the (Army Corps

of Engineers) had not fully evaluated potential environmental damage before approving four other strip-mining permits owned by Massey Energy.

In (this most recent) ruling, Chambers explained that all environmental laws contain "numerous provisions that serve as checks on development, industry and other economic activities in order to ensure that environmental consequences are considered and valuable environmental resources are protected.

"While it is true that these statutes contemplate a certain amount of environmental degradation, they also mandate a certain amount of economic loss," Chambers wrote. "Economic gain is not to be pursued at all costs, and certainly not when it is contrary to the law."

Initially, officials from Magnum Coal said that they would not need to begin new valley fills until after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hears an appeal of Chambers previous decision. However, in mid-December, Magnum told environmental groups the company planned to move forward much sooner on at least one valley fill.

During a Sept. 26 hearing in Huntington (Ed. note: thanks to all that attended this hearing we had a great showing!), company officials said their existing valley fill is almost full of waste rock and dirt. To continue mining, company officials said, they needed to start a new valley fill much sooner.

Chambers explained that Jupiters "main interest in opposing this motion is its own economic interest.

"While the court must certainly consider the economic effect of this decision on Jupiters employees and the surrounding communities, these effects are distinguishable from the harm suffered by Jupiter itself," Chambers wrote.

"While Jupiter may or may not be a good employer or a beneficial corporate citizen, it is certainly out to make money," the judge wrote. "Whether it is environmental enforcement or other market forces that cut into profits, Jupiters interest in its own bottom line may cause it to lay off its workers."

Chambers said the "main harm suffered by Jupiter, therefore, is a delay in reaping economic benefits from the Callisto mine.

"This temporary economic harm can be outweighed by the permanent harm to the environment that comes from the filling of streams and valleys," Chambers wrote.

Read the judges ruling here (pdf).



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