FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- August 18, 2008
Groups Continue to Fight for Better Energy Decisions
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — In a rush to beat the legal system, Hobet Mining Company has already destroyed miles of streams that community groups sought to save from expanded operations at the Hobet mountaintop removal coal mine. However, the mining company is required to do its duty under the Clean Water Act and limit the amount of toxic selenium it releases into local waterways. In addition, Hobet must take additional measures to attempt to reclaim the land affected by their mining operation.
“It’s high time that West Virginia state agencies stop giving coal companies a free pass for mountaintop removal. Selenium limits and other safeguards are there to protect the health of our citizens, and it’s about time the Manchin administration started enforcing them. I’m glad to see that is finally beginning,” said Jim Sconyers of the WV Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Shrouded in secrecy by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and protected by the complacency of public officials, the proposed mine expansion was approved without the opportunity for public input. In addition, the mining permit prepared by the Army Corps failed to consider or analyze the effects of the mine’s release of selenium, which when released into the environment by mining, causes deformities, reproductive failures, and the eventual collapse of fish population in nearby waterways. This case is yet another example of the failure of the Corps pandering to coal companies rather than carrying out the responsibilities entrusted to the agency.
"It's neither fair nor morally correct to have eliminated the communities of Mud, Berry Branch and others to make way for the continued pollution from the over 20 square miles of mining at this Hobet operation," said Cindy Rank with the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.
"The sad reality is that once again the citizens have to force the government to do its job," said Vernon Haltom, Co-Director of Coal River Mountain Watch. "The Department of Environmental Protection should have already been enforcing selenium limits. The Corps is complicit in issuing permits without public involvement, covertly issuing permits in such a manner that the citizens' rights to clean water are trumped by the coal company ready to fill streams at the drop of a hat. The politicians of this state care only about one industry's corporate welfare, to the extent of encouraging illegal activities that impact the rest of us."
“When I heard that the streams at Hobet 22 had been hastily destroyed, my heart sunk; and frankly, the governor's eleventh hour involvement is too little, too late. Where has he been for the last four years? Many citizens are suffering as a result of illegal mining activity. As governor, he should be serving everyone’s interests; after all, most West Virginians are concerned about quality of life, healthy families, and the future of our state,” said Janet Keating, Executive Director, OVEC.
All of the groups will continue to push for increased public involvement and a more open permitting process to ensure instances like this never happen again.
The U.S. District Court hearing set for Wednesday August 20 in Huntington, W.Va. has been cancelled.
Mountaintop removal mining is a destructive form of coal mining that has already buried more than 1,200 miles of streams and threatens to destroy 1.4 million acres of land by 2020. The mining poisons drinking water, lays waste to wildlife habitat, increases the risk of flooding and wipes out entire communities.
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