Greens sue EPA over mountaintop removal mining

The Sierra Club is suing the Environmental Protection Agency to force it to regulate mountaintop removal mining in Kentucky and West Virginia.

The group, along with local environmental groups, says that Kentucky and West Virginia have dropped the ball on protecting waterways from mountaintop removal, and the EPA is obligated to intervene.

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The EPA did not step in when the groups filed petitions years ago, so they are now suing, they said Wednesday.

“Communities in Appalachia have been living with mountaintop removal pollution for too long,” Bill Price, a Sierra Club organizer, said in a statement.

“EPA needs to step up and seize the opportunity to protect Appalachian residents from rampant water pollution,” he said.

“We’ve shown the federal government that Kentucky and West Virginia are refusing to hold mining companies accountable for dangerous pollution — and EPA must take action.”

Mountaintop removal mining is controversial in part because workers remove material and often put it in valleys with streams or other waterways, polluting them or otherwise blocking them, the environmentalists said.

States are allowed to regulate dumping, such as that involved in mountaintop removal mining, but the Clean Water Act allows the EPA to step in if state programs aren’t sufficient.

The Sierra Club accused Kentucky and West Virginia of bowing to pressure from the coal industry to weaken its permitting programs.

“The agency should immediately revoke the authority of those states to implement the Clean Water Act, or, even better, if EPA thinks change is possible it can start working with the states tomorrow to make sure they finally get serious on their own,” Price said in his statement.