06/19/14 – Environmental Organizations to Sue Companies Owned By Coal Giant Jim Justice for Clean Water Violations – Jim Justice subsidiaries caught violating permit limits and failing to report discharges
Knoxville, Tennessee – Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM) and Sierra Club have sent a series of “notice of intent to sue” letters to three coal companies owned by Jim Justice, a leading regional corporate polluter, for failing to submit water pollution reports for fourteen coal mines in Tennessee.
The groups contend that the three subsidiaries in question, National Coal, Premium Coal and S&H Mining, have failed to file “discharge monitoring reports” (DMR), in violation of National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits and Clean Water Act mine pollution protections at surface mining sites across the state.
Since the fourth quarter of 2013, these Jim Justice owned mining companies have failed to file any records of their mining pollution discharges.
Additionally, the groups filed a lawsuit on June 19 against one of the companies, S&H Mining, for unlawful mining pollution from the company’s Deep Mine 11 in Campbell County, Tennessee. Pollution from Deep Mine 11, including iron, manganese, and suspended solids flows into several streams, including the Stoney Fork and Beech Fork of the New River. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) classifies these streams as supportive of uses for fish and aquatic life, livestock watering and wildlife, recreation and irrigation.
“Unreported pollution is no less damaging, and presents a major threat to our waterways,” said Sierra Club volunteer Axel Ringe. “The violations at the S&H mine site underscore how important it is that the public be aware of these corporate violations. Justice and his firms have a legal responsibility to let the people near these mines know the amount and type of pollution they’re facing. It’s time for Justice’s companies to do what the law requires and make that information public.”
Mining companies are required to submit DMRs for active mines. DMRs catalog the concentrations of pollutants coming from mines and are critical in Environmental Protection Agency and state efforts to ensure that pollution from coal mines does not harm local waterways, aquatic life or drinking water.
Stephanie Langley, Chair of SOCM’s Energy, Ecology, and Environmental Justice (E3) Committee, said “While Jim Justice and his associates disregard the most basic of permitting procedures, folks who live near these mine sites and discharge points are being subjected to an unknown amount of toxic materials being dumped into their streams and rivers. There is no question as to if pollutants are being discharged, it is only a question of how much and when. While it is a shame that citizens have to file lawsuits to protect the health of our communities while regulatory agencies sit idly by, our hope is that this effort will bring some transparency to Jim Justice’s operations in Tennessee.”
Controlling pollution from coal mines is essential for the health of nearby communities. People living near surface coal mines in Appalachia experience higher cancer rates, a higher likelihood of birth defects and a lower life expectancy than average Americans.
SOCM and Sierra Club are represented in this matter by Mike Becher and Joe Lovett of Appalachian Mountain Advocates and the Law Office of Gena Lewis.