Supreme Court Rejects Spruce Mine Mountaintop Removal Case

Monday, March 24th, 2014 | Posted by Brian Sewell | No Comments

sprucemap3 The U.S. Supreme Court says it won’t consider the case of Mingo Logan Coal Co. v. EPA, a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to veto mountaintop removal permits. In this case, the permits in question are for Arch Coal’s Spruce Mine No. 1 — the largest mountaintop removal project ever proposed in West Virginia. [ More ]

Back on Track to Address Climate Change in the Commonwealth

Thursday, February 6th, 2014 | Posted by Hannah Wiegard | No Comments

photo 4 Thanks to the outpouring of opposition to SB 615, a bill in Virginia that would attempt to undercut the EPA's authority to regulate carbon pollution, we’re back on track to addressing climate change in the commonwealth. Here’s how the story unfolded over the last few days. [ More ]

Common Sense, Nonsense, and a Climate Fight in the Making in Richmond

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 | Posted by Hannah Wiegard | No Comments

photo 4 The 2014 session of the Virginia General Assembly is underway, and state lawmakers are wasting no time. Legislation this session falls into two categories: the bright ideas that bring Virginia closer to a future of safe and reliable clean energy, and the downright crazy bills that do the opposite and must be stopped. Here is the breakdown. [ More ]

McAuliffe Lauds Carbon Capture Technology, But Coal’s Impacts Go Beyond CO2 Pollution

Thursday, January 9th, 2014 | Posted by Hannah Wiegard | 3 Comments

TerryMcblog Virginia Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe claims that “we need to build on the assets we have” by using carbon capture technology. But carbon pollution isn’t the only measure of coal’s impact on Virginia. Continuing to mine and burn coal will still cause serious problems: more destructive mountaintop removal, toxic mining waste, air and water pollution from power plants, all while southwestern Virginia continues to feel the worst effects of deferring a cleaner energy future. [ More ]

For Patriot Coal, Ending Mountaintop Removal is a “Win-Win”

Thursday, December 26th, 2013 | Posted by Brian Sewell | No Comments

join_movt_mtr_sq A little more than a year ago, Patriot Coal announced it would phase out its use of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia as part of a settlement with environmental groups over selenium pollution. Taken at face value, statements made at that time by Patriot’s CEO Bennett Hatfield held promise that the movement against mountaintop removal, focused on exposing the poor economics as well as the irreversible environmental impacts of the destructive practice, had reached a pivotal turning point. [ More ]

A Watched EPA Never Acts: 5 Years After the TVA Coal Ash Disaster

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Amy Adams | No Comments


It has been five years since the TVA Coal Ash disaster in Tennessee, which sent 1.1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash into Emory and Clinch rivers. While the nation has watched and petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the agency responsible for issuing federal standards for coal ash disposal, little action has been taken. Perhaps this is similar to the old adage that says “a watched pot never boils.”

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Appalachian Voices and Partners Challenge Kentucky’s Weakening of Water Pollution Standards for Selenium

Friday, December 13th, 2013 | Posted by Eric Chance | No Comments

This two headed trout was deformed by selenium pollution. Today, we have taken action to keep EPA and Kentucky from allowing pollution like this to get worse.

Earlier today Appalachian Voices and a number of partner organizations sued the EPA over their approval of Kentucky’s new, weaker standard for selenium pollution.

Selenium is extremely toxic to fish, and causes deformities and reproductive failure at extremely low levels. The pollutant is commonly discharged from coal mines and coal ash ponds, but currently Kentucky does not regulate its discharge from these facilities.

These new standards were proposed at the behest of coal industry groups, likely motivated by citizen groups’ success at requiring companies in other states to clean up their selenium pollution. We have also seen the state governments of Virginia and West Virginia take steps towards making similar rollbacks to their own standards, making the EPA’s approval of Kentucky’s weakened standards even more alarming.

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Rep. Morgan Griffith Proudly Accomplishes Nothing

Friday, December 6th, 2013 | Posted by Thom Kay | 2 Comments

"I don't want to mislead anyone, I don't think it will pass in the Senate and maybe not the House," Virginia Rep. Morgan Griffith said of his bill, the latest futile attack on the EPA, which would to force the agency to layoff 15 percent of its employees.

“I don’t want to mislead anyone, I don’t think it will pass in the Senate and maybe not the House,” Virginia Rep. Morgan Griffith said of his bill, the latest futile attack on the EPA, which would to force the agency to layoff 15 percent of its employees.

Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) introduced a new bill this week titled the “EPA Maximum Achievable Contraction of Technocrats Act,” or “EPA MACT Act.”

The bill would require the EPA to layoff 15 percent of its employees. The title of the bill is a play on words, referring to EPA’s Utility MACT rule, which would drastically reduce air pollution in the United States. Because if there’s one thing that makes a good piece of federal legislation, it’s a title that pokes fun at pollution controls.

The bill would reduce employment at EPA over a three-year period, though no rate of contraction would be mandated over that time period. It also includes a long “Findings” section full of disjointed talking points that are seemingly meant to explain the need for staff cuts. Griffith uses the fact that 95 percent of the EPA’s employees were deemed ‘non-essential’” during the government shutdown to justify the reductions and makes the trivial point that “the EPA occupies space in fourteen different buildings in the District of Columbia.”

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EPA Helps Kentucky Roll Back Water Quality Protections

Friday, November 15th, 2013 | Posted by Erin Savage | 1 Comment

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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The Clock is Ticking on Coal Ash: EPA Given 60 Days to Set Deadline on Regulation of Toxic Coal Waste

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 | Posted by Brian Sewell | No Comments

This week, a federal court gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 60 days to propose a deadline for rules regulating toxic coal ash. Photo from

This week, a federal court gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 60 days to propose a deadline for rules regulating toxic coal ash. Photo from

After years of delays and setbacks, the clock is finally ticking on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to propose a deadline for federal regulations of coal ash.

On Tuesday, a federal judge gave the EPA 60 days to file a written submission setting forth a proposed deadline for its review and revision of regulations concerning coal ash, along with its legal justification for the proposed deadline.

This victory for clean water and healthy communities came almost month after the court sided with Appalachian Voices and our allies, agreeing that the EPA has a duty to stop the delays and issue federally enforceable safeguards for the toxic coal waste. You can read the memorandum issued this week by the court here.

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In Wake of Shutdown, Polls Point to Congress’s Unpopularity and Public Support of EPA

Monday, October 21st, 2013 | Posted by Brian Sewell | No Comments

Recent polls reveal the unpopularity of Congress, and North Carolinians' and Virginians' support for environmental protection.

Recent polls reveal the unpopularity of Congress, and North Carolinians’ and Virginians’ support for environmental protection.

Two recent polls reveal that North Carolinians and Virginians strongly approve of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to regulate carbon emissions from new power plants and the agency’s role in protecting clean air and water for all Americans.

According to a Public Policy Polling survey of 803 North Carolinians commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council, roughly seven in ten residents say they oppose efforts to delay EPA’s work to cut carbon pollution, protect the environment and public health. So it should not come as a surprise that a majority of North Carolinians hold an unfavorable view of elected officials who suggest the EPA is overreaching or even unnecessary.

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Local Citizens Speak Up about Nation’s Top Source of Toxic Water Pollution: Coal-Burning Waste

Thursday, September 26th, 2013 | Posted by Sarah Kellogg | 2 Comments

G.G. Allen Steam Plant's Waste Storage Facilities and Nearby Neighborhood

G.G. Allen Steam Plant’s Waste Storage Facilities and Nearby Neighborhood

Last month, more than 150,000 people across the country submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, encouraging the agency to adopt strong regulations for the toxic waste water produced by coal-burning power plants.

The comments were submitted to the EPA after the agency proposed an update of the rules under the Clean Water Act last April. The proposed steam electric effluent limitation guidelines, or ELG rules, have the potential to protect more than 23,000 miles of waterways from up to 5.3 billion tons of toxic waste water a year.

The EPA’s rules for coal waste water have not been updated since 1982, and since four out of five power plants have no limits on the levels of heavy metals they can dump into rivers and lakes, the new rules could provide hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens with peace of mind.

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