Groups Sue Army Corps of Engineers Over Mountaintop
Colonel William Bulen, District Engineer
up with the federal government’s continued illegal permitting of mountaintop
removal valley fills, two West Virginia environmental groups and one national
group filed a lawsuit against the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers on October 23, 2003 in the U.S. District Court for
the Southern District of West Virginia in Huntington. Ohio Valley
Environmental Coalition v. Bulen challenges the illegal use of
Nationwide Permit 21 for large-scale surface mining operations, particularly
mountaintop removal operations.
action seeks to force the Army Corps of Engineers to comply with the federal
Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act by authorizing these mines
only after thorough study of the environmental and community impacts of the
mines. If successful, this action will set a precedent for improved Corps’
permitting throughout the Appalachian Region and nationally. Named
as defendants are Colonel William Bulen, District Engineer for the Corps'
Huntington District Office, and Lieutenant General Robert B. Flowers, Chief of
Engineers and Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Coal has buried alive 1,200 miles of streams, and the Corps has buried
the truth by calling this major disaster a minimal impact," said
TLPJ's Jim Hecker.
action was filed on behalf of the Whitesville-based Coal
River Mountain Watch, the Huntington-based Ohio
Valley Environmental Coalition and the Washington, D.C.-based Natural
Resources Defense Council by Joe Lovett, Executive Director of the Appalachian
Center for the Economy and the Environment and Jim Hecker, Environmental
Enforcement Director of Trial Lawyers for Public
Corps’ mindless action is decimating much of Appalachia. Over 1,200 miles of
Appalachian headwaters streams already have been buried under waste rock valley
fills from mountaintop removal coalmines. More than one million acres of the
most productive and diverse temperate hardwood forests in the world have been
destroyed since 1977,” said Vivian Stockman, an organizer with the Ohio Valley
communities face threats of increased flooding, coal waste impoundment failures,
and contaminated drinking water. We
are forced to sell our land as surface mining operations displace
generations-old communities and make life in the coalfields unlivable. And
without the approval of the Corps, these mines could not be permitted,” said
Judy Bonds, Outreach Coordinator with Coal River Mountain Watch.
prior litigation and the devastating scientific data developed by the federal
agencies in preparing the recently released draft environmental impact statement
on mountaintop removal mining, the Corps continues to authorize coal mining
activities with Nationwide 21 permits in southern West Virginia, Eastern
Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee.
“It is unfortunate that citizens must resort to litigation to force the Bush
administration to enforce environmental protection laws passed by Congress more
than 25 years ago,” attorney Joe Lovett said. “The Administration’s
collusion with coal operators to undermine the enforcement of these crucial
laws, if allowed to continue, will not only destroy the region’s forests,
streams and mountains, but also its economic future”
Coal has buried alive 1,200 miles of streams, and the Corps has buried the truth
by calling this major disaster a minimal impact,” said TLPJ’s
Jim Hecker. “The Corps should stop twisting science and the law to satisfy
industry greed, and instead make Big Coal conform to the law.”
“It’s painfully obvious that the Corps is acting without regard
to the law by ignoring the individual, let alone cumulative effects of valley
fills on the natural resources and communities in the coalfields. The Corps
isn’t bothering to review and evaluate the destruction it is permitting. The
effects to communities and the ecosystem are hardly minimal and temporary, but
massive and permanent,” Stockman added. “The Corps is betraying the public
trust by leaving a landscape that will not recover for hundreds of years.”
issuing general Nationwide 21 Permits for mountaintop removal valley fills, the
Army Corps of Engineers is ignoring both the law and science,” said Bonds.
“It’s exceedingly disturbing that the government is so routinely and
callously breaking the law without any regard for the long-term social and
ecological costs. Once again we have to resort to the courts to get the
government to obey its own laws."