A Washington Post editorial on mountaintop removal’s dirty consequences

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Thom Kay | 3 Comments

14675904178_2a09aa383a_zThe Washington Post published a strongly worded editorial condemning mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia that cites recent studies revealing the practice's dirty consequences. With the mounting scientific evidence that mining pollution is decimating aquatic life, wiping out trees and mountains, and promoting a host of human health problems, there is no excuse to continue allowing mountaintop removal. [ More ]

Employees of DEP-certified lab conspired to violate Clean Water Act

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 | Posted by Brian Sewell | 2 Comments

4528869007_4484c3d401_bAn employee of a state-certified company pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the federal Clean Water Act after he faked compliant water quality samples for coal companies between 2008 and 2013. While we’re appalled by this discovery, it is hard to be surprised. [ More ]

After last-minute compromise, N.C. legislature passes coal ash bill

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 | Posted by Brian Sewell | 1 Comment

906527_10152419133054084_3153136159662225319_oHowever dysfunctional, the North Carolina General Assembly always seems to come together in the end — often in literally the final hours of the legislative session. After a last-minute compromise, the North Carolina legislature passed the coal ash bill on Wednesday, but fell short of promises to protect communities in the wake of the Dan River spill. [ More ]

Science vs. Mining

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Chance | No Comments

Over 2,000 miles of streams have been buried by Mountain Top Removal mining, and many more have been degraded. This seems like it should be illegal, but the destructive practice continues. That's why Appalachian Voices has been working to keep the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and industry from opening up new loopholes in our environmental laws that would make it easier to poison streams. [ More ]

Great News for Clean Water in Virginia!

Friday, July 18th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Chance | No Comments

Last week a federal judge upheld a previous decision requiring a Virginia coal company to get a permit for their discharges of toxic selenium. [ More ]

Today’s court decision and what it means for Appalachia

Friday, July 11th, 2014 | Posted by Thom Kay | 4 Comments

good_day_for_mtns2A major ruling in favor of the EPA says the agency has the authority to coordinate with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when reviewing permits for mountaintop removal mines. The EPA has the legal authority, scientific evidence, and moral obligation to block every mountaintop removal permit that comes through its doors. We all share the responsibility of making sure it does just that. [ More ]

Take Action: Protect Appalachian Streams from Toxic Selenium

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Chance | 16 Comments

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is poised to loosen national recommended water quality standards for selenium, a toxic pollutant commonly released from mountaintop removal coal mines. You can stand up for streams in Appalachia by submitting comments urging the EPA to protect aquatic life and strengthen selenium standards. [ More ]

Court Grants North Carolinians a Voice in the Coal Ash Lawsuits

Thursday, May 8th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Kellogg | 1 Comment

906527_10152419133054084_3153136159662225319_oA North Carolina Superior Court judge ruled that conservation groups representing the interests of communities living near coal ash ponds can participate in a lawsuit between Duke and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources for documented, illegal coal ash pollution across the state. [ More ]

Appalachian Coal Companies Face Major Fines for Clean Water Act Violations

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 | Posted by Brian Sewell | 3 Comments

iron precipitate in right fork fugate creek below unpermitted fill and pondsTwo recent federal enforcement actions against major Appalachian coal companies, Alpha Natural Resources and Nally & Hamilton, are a positive sign. But can fining coal companies come close to solving the fundamental problem of water pollution that stems from mountaintop removal? [ More ]

KY and NC: Different States, Same Recipe for Lax Clean Water Enforcement

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Chance | 4 Comments

Yesterday there was a hearing in Franklin Circuit Court for our ongoing challenge of a weak settlement that the state of Kentucky reached with Frasure Creek Mining. The settlement is a slap on the wrist that lets them off the hook for thousands of violations of the Clean Water Act, and it bears a striking resemblance to the settlement between North Carolina and Duke Energy that has come under scrutiny after their recent coal ash spill into the Dan River. [ More ]

Fighting for Clean Water in Virginia: Standing up to Coal Industry Bullies

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Chance | 2 Comments

944745_10100206520223687_1797773733_n Today, Appalachian Voices along with our allies in Virginia filed a lawsuit against Penn Virginia, for water polluted by selenium coming from abandoned mines on their land. This lawsuit is one in a series of suits aimed at cleaning up selenium pollution in Callahan Creek. [ More ]

EPA Helps Kentucky Roll Back Water Quality Protections

Friday, November 15th, 2013 | Posted by Erin Savage | 7 Comments

Above are blue gills that were collected below the site of TVA’s 2008 Kingston Coal Ash spill. They all have “pop-eye”, a deformity caused by selenium pollution where their eyes bulge out of their heads. These fish had selenium levels of 2.5-6.5ppm, well below Kentucky’s newly accepted standard of 8.6 ppm for fish tissue.

Just today, after several months of delays, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its decisions on the Kentucky Department of Water’s (DOW) amendments to the Kentucky Water Quality Regulations. Unfortunately, the EPA has approved substantive changes to the selenium freshwater chronic standard that will not adequately protect aquatic life and will be difficult, if not impossible to enforce at mountaintop removal coal mining sites throughout eastern Kentucky.

In theory, states review their water quality standards every three years in an effort to make sure these standards are up-to-date with current science and are protective of aquatic life. In some cases, however, the review becomes an opportunity for special interests to influence state agencies. This year, under pressure from the coal industry, the Kentucky DOW proposed to weaken selenium standards. Standards are used to set permit limits for industries that may discharge pollutants into public waterways. Though some mines in Kentucky are known to discharge selenium into streams, the Kentucky general permit for valley fills does not currently include selenium permit limits.

Selenium is a naturally occurring element that can be released into streams through mountaintop removal coal mining. Once in the water, selenium bioaccumulates in fish and other aquatic life, increasing in concentration up the food chain. Selenium is toxic to aquatic life at very low levels. For these reasons, Appalachian Voices and our allies have been working to challenge Kentucky’s proposed selenium standards.

Kentucky DOW proposed to raise the acute selenium standard from 20 ug/L in the water column to 258 ug/L in the water column. They also proposed changing the chronic standard of 5 ug/L to a more complicated system where a level of 5 ug/L in the water column would not be enforceable, but instead would trigger the need to sample fish tissue. The new chronic standard would be 8.6 ug/g in fish tissue, or 19.2 ug/g in egg/ovary tissue. The 5 ug/L water concentration would only be an enforceable limit if no fish were available for sampling.

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