A coalition of environmental groups is suing the Environmental Protection Agency in federal court over a recently approved mountaintop removal mining rule change. The old rule required mining companies to keep debris at least a hundred feet away from valley streams. But because of different interpretations of the rule, many miles of streams have already been covered with debris. The EPA calls the rule change a clarification. And the mining industry says it reconstructs streams. But Jason Flickner, who is a spokesman for plaintiff Kentucky Waterways Alliance, says he doesn’t believe those claims.
“We don’t believe that they are truly proving that it’s not going to have a cumulative adverse effect. We believe that when you look at these in isolated incidences, that mining companies can justify that, well, we’re not going to lower water quality, or we’re going to replace the stream, but those streams are never going to come back to the biological integrity that they were before the mining waste was put in them,” says Flickner.
The practice of mountaintop removal and the December 12 rule change have drawn public fire from several Appalachian region governors, including Kentucky’s Steve Beshear. The law suit comes as no surprise from groups who have been fighting the rule change since it was proposed. The suit was filed in federal district court in Washington D. C