Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

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This article originally published by The Charleston Gazette

May 25, 2007

OVEC Note: (Unfortunately our hands are tied on this one mine because the Corps secretly issued the permit and the damage has been done. Shame on the Corps for illegally issuing permits and holding out the false promise of jobs; shame on the coal companies for continuing to apply for illegal permits. Our fight to protect our members homes and communities and end mountaintop removal continues on the legal front. Lawsuits are but one aspect of OVEC works to end mountaintop removal. Organize! Join OVEC.) 

Logan mining challenge withdrawn

Environmental groups say damage to streams already has been done

By Ken Ward Jr.
Staff writer

More than 200 Logan County mine workers will get to keep their jobs, after environmental groups on Thursday dropped their legal challenge of a mountaintop removal permit sought by Magnum Coal.

Lawyers for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch and the Natural Resources Defense Council asked a federal judge to withdraw their motion for a preliminary injunction to block Magnum subsidiary Apogee Coal Co.s North Rum permit.

Lawyers Joe Lovett and Jim Hecker said that their clients discovered that the company had already destroyed the streams that the court action had sought to protect.

The legal challenge to the permit, issued in March by the federal Army Corps of Engineers, had been scheduled for a hearing May 31 before U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin.

Citizen groups asked Goodwin to block the permit as part of a broader case initially filed in October 2003 over the corps approval of mountaintop removal valley fills through a streamlined permitting process.

In Thursdays court filing, Lovett and Hecker said that their clients did not learn that the corps had approved the North Rum permit until the company had already begun operations and buried the streams it proposed to fill.

Remarkably, when the corps authorizes mines under the Nationwide permitting system, as it did here, it does not inform the public of the authorizations, Lovett and Hecker wrote.

Because of North Rums swift destruction of the streams, there is no longer any reason to proceed with a preliminary injunction hearing on this mine, they wrote.

Magnum Coal President Paul Vining did not return a phone call.

United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts, whose union represents the Apogee workers, welcomed the environmental group action, saying it avoided a devastating blow to the broader economy.

We will continue to seek responsible approaches toward maintaining good jobs while protecting the environment in our coalfield communities, Roberts said.

Logan County Commissioner Art Kirkendoll agreed that the environmentalists move is good news for his community.

Im happy about it, Kirkendoll said.

The North Rum permit fight had erupted into a renewed fight, with environmentalists on one side and UMW members, local politicians, business and labor groups, and Gov. Joe Manchin on the other.

Apogee had wanted to mine more than 9 million tons of coal over the next six years on the nearly 900-acre permit. About two miles of streams would be buried by waste rock and dirt in two valley fills. The mine would be located just south of the community of Kelly, east of Logan, and would continue Apogees operations from its nearby Guyan Mine.

In Thursdays court filing, Lovett and Hecker blasted the corps for approving the North Rum operation through a streamlined, nationwide permit.

It is troubling that the corps is again authorizing huge and extremely destructive mining operations pursuant to the nationwide permit, Lovett and Hecker wrote. Plaintiffs had hoped that the corps had abandoned its illegal use of that permit in favor of individual permits.

As the court knows, the nationwide permit may not legally be used for activities that will have more than minimal impact on the environment, they wrote. It is hard to imagine activities that have more extreme impacts on the environment than the kinds of mines at issue in this action.

To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., use e-mail or call 348-1702.

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