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Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition v. Fola Coal Co., LLC

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20152
Nos. 2:13-21588, (S.D.W. Va., 08/12/2015) (Chambers, CJ.)

A district court held that a mining company violated state and federal permits when it discharged high levels of ionic pollution. Environmental groups successfully demonstrated that high conductivity discharges from two of the company's mines are causing or materially contributing to the biological impairment of two streams. They demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that two of the streams at issue are biologically impaired, the discharges complained of share the same characteristic composition presently known in the scientific community to cause or materially contribute to impairment in central Appalachian streams, and the conductivity levels observed in the company's discharges are far in excess of the thresholds identified by EPA and the available scientific literature known to cause stress to aquatic communities. The groups also demonstrated that the company's mining operations are the only land use that could have caused the impairment, and that changes in the biological community particularly show the loss of conductivity-intolerant organisms. But the court sided with the coal company concerning discharges from a third mine because the group's evidence failed to isolate the effects of the discharges from that mine.