Appalachian and National Organizations to West Virginia's Manchin: Stop Standing in the Way of Clean Water in Appalachia

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Virginia Cramer, 804-225-9113 x 102

Appalachian and National Organizations to West Virginia's Manchin: Stop Standing in the Way of Clean Water in Appalachia

Community groups oppose obstructionist lawsuit, demand clean water and healthy living conditions in West Virginia

WASHINGTON - Today several Appalachian organizations filed a motion to intervene
in a lawsuit in defense of the U.S. Environment Protection Agency's
(EPA) new Clean Water Act guidance and its interagency review process
with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). The lawsuit was filed by
former West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin on behalf of the state of West
Virginia just before his election to the U.S. Senate.

The
intervening groups -- all of which have members directly affected by
mountaintop removal mining across Appalachia -- are the Sierra Club,
Coal River Mountain Watch, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West
Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth,
Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, and Statewide Organizing for
Community eMpowerment. The Appalachian Center for the Economy and the
Environment is representing the groups.

"Water is life," said Jim
Sconyers, chair of Sierra Club’s West Virginia Chapter. "If the state
continually abdicates its responsibility to protect us and our water,
then I say thank goodness we have the EPA willing to enforce one of our
most basic, and popular, laws -- the Clean Water Act."

The groups
are intervening in this challenge because they believe that the state
of West Virginia should not be able to stop federal government agencies
from following one of the nation's cornerstone and longstanding laws,
the Clean Water Act; from considering and using the best available
science; or from protecting America's waters from destruction.

"It's
time America faces up to what has been sacrificed for our cheap energy,
and how human life has been affected here. We coalfield residents
should be afforded the same protections as the rest of the nation," said
Debbie Jarrell, assistant director of Coal River Mountain Watch.

At
the heart of this legal challenge is an interagency review process that
EPA and the Corps are conducting in partnership, along with a policy
guidance issued by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in April 2010.  The
interagency review and policy guidance aim to ensure compliance with the
Clean Water Act and to strengthen the role of science in reviewing
applications for mountaintop removal coal mining permits. The guidance
also provides scientific information to help regulators prevent
irreversible damage to Appalachian watersheds at risk from mining.

On
October 6, Senator Manchin (then Governor) announced that the state of
West Virginia was filing suit against the EPA and the Army Corps.  The
lawsuit attempts to block the EPA and the Corps from enforcing important
existing Clean Water Act protections, including the consideration of
important scientific information during the permitting process. The West
Virginia case is similar to a case filed by the National Mining
Association in Washington, D.C., where the same conservation groups,
represented by Earthjustice, have intervened in support of the agencies.

"Our
state government is supposed to be looking out for our health and
safety, but here in West Virginia it is clear that politics continues to
trump science and common sense, and as a result laws meant to protect
human health and the environment we depend on are routinely ignored,"
said Vivian Stockman of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. "At
least EPA is listening to the people and following the science, but it
appears that our state politicians are still deaf."

"It's taken
nearly twenty years of pleading, polite encouragement, legal actions
that brought scientists and academic experts to focus on the impacts of
these large mining operations, and untold numbers of articles, books,
documentary films as well as thousands of hours of volunteer time on the
part of community members impacted by this mining to finally bring
about a fair evaluation of the impacts of mountaintop removal mining,"
said Cindy Rank, chair of the Mining Committee of the West Virginia
Highlands Conservancy. "Now is not the time for West Virginia to turn
its back on protecting the health of our valuable water resources or to
challenge the authority of EPA to assist in that effort."

Background:
Mountaintop
removal is a destructive form of coal mining, using explosives to blow
up mountains and expose the coal under them. Coal companies then dump
toxic rubble and waste over the side of the mountain into valleys below,
polluting and permanently burying natural streams. More than 2,000
miles of streams have been buried by mountaintop removal coal mining to
date, leading to long-term harm to the entire ecosystem, watershed, and
local communities on which those streams depend.

For a copy of the motion please contact virginia.cramer@sierraclub.org.

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The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.

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