Coal Tattoo

Supreme Court review sought in MTR case


Environmental groups announced today that they are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the latest federal court ruling on mountaintop removal coal mining.

Lawyers from Earthjustice and the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment filed this petition. They want the Supreme Court to review a 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that overturned a ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers.

Citing the “alarming cumulative stream loss” to valley fills, Judge Chambers had ruled in March 2007 that the federal Army Corps of Engineers failed to conduct proper environmental reviews before issuing Clean Water Act permits for valley fills.  In February, the 4th Circuit ruled that Chambers wrongly did not defer to the Corps’ own judgment on those environmental reviews.

Earthjustice attorney Steve Roady said:

This case is of great national importance. The Corps of Engineers is ripping the heart out of the Clean Water Act by granting permits that allow coal companies to permanently entomb vital streams in the rubble of exploded mountains. The destruction caused by mountaintop removal mining is enormous and the adverse impacts on local communities are profound. We’re asking the Supreme Court to hold the Corps accountable.

In a statement, Earthjustice and the Appalachian Center noted the dissents in the 4th Circuit ruling by Judges J. Harvie Wilkinson, Diana Gribbon Motz, and Blane Michael, which said:

…The requirements of the Clean Water Act are important. It is often easier in the short run to diminish natural resources, but then environmental degradation is so often the product of short-sightedness. Our circuit is experiencing this first-hand. West Virginia is witnessing in the Appalachian headwaters the long, sad decline that Virginia and Maryland have seen with the Chesapeake Bay. Once the ecologies of streams and rivers and bays and oceans turn, they cannot easily be reclaimed. Most often than not, the waterway is simply gone for good.