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Earthrise Digs In: CWA Violations in Pennsylvania Mines

October 29, 2012

  • Longwall mine plan, 1921 Missouri

10/29/12 - Earthrise, on behalf of its client the Center for Coalfield Justice, served notice today of CCJ’s intent to sue Alpha Natural Resources and Emerald Mine Resources for Clean Water Act permit violations in western Pennsylvania.

The violations at the Emerald Mine #1 longwall mine in Waynesburg, PA, number in the hundreds over the past five years. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) were also notified.

“For years the public has paid the price of coal’s dirty pollution into our rivers and streams,” said Patrick Grenter, Executive Director of the Center for Coalfield Justice. “We cannot rely on the state or EPA to act. Emerald has been illegally violating the terms of their permits for years without being held accountable. These ongoing violations must come to a stop.”

As Earthrise Managing Attorney Tom Buchele explained in an earlier interview, “The mining office sees its main purpose as facilitating mining, not protecting the health and safety of the public and environment.” Buchele describes longwall mining as “the gorilla in the room” in southwestern Pennsylvania. “The DEP won’t [rule] against coal companies unless the evidence is overwhelming — almost beyond a reasonable doubt,” he says, “and that’s an impossible hurdle for landowners.” (Source: Undermined by Kristen Lombardi, The Center for Public Integrity.)

The notice letter (see below) lists discharges from the mine such as high levels of heavy metals, which are detrimental to human health as well as the environment. “These ongoing and systemic violations are a glaring testament to DEP’s inability or unwillingness to enforce the law against polluters who are hurting human health and the environment,” said Joanne Kilgour, Legal Director of CCJ. Read the full press release (below).

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