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West Virginia Environmental Groups Reach Historic Settlement



April 1, 2024 - Three West Virginia environmental groups secured a landmark victory by reaching an agreement with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to address pollution in West Virginia streams caused by coal mining.

According to a press release from the Sierra Club, the agreement comes after years of advocacy and legal action by the Sierra Club and its partners, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, to “compel” the EPA to fulfill obligations under the Clean Water Act.

The release states that surface mining harms streams by producing high levels of ionic toxicity pollution, which can make water too salty for aquatic life, disrupt ecosystems, affect drinking water and increase water treatment costs. Under the agreement, the EPA will now be required to develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for ionic toxicity pollution for 11 high-priority West Virginia streams by Jan. 2025.

Early this March the groups, represented by lawyers from Appalachian Mountain Advocates, filed a lawsuit against the EPA after previously warning that it was overdue in creating TMDLs for the pollution damaging streams in the Lower Guyandotte River Watershed. The release further adding that “a TMDL is a “pollution budget” designed to restore streams that are not meeting all of the uses protected by the Clean Water Act.”

Sierra Club West Virginia Chapter Chair Jim Kotcon says the agreement is a “big win” for West Virginia streams.

“With this agreement to set the first-ever rules for ionic toxicity, we’re not just cleaning up our waterways in West Virginia; we’re setting an example for the whole country,” Kotcon said. “We’ve waited too long for clean, safe water, and it’s time to hold mining companies responsible for their pollution.”  

The Sierra Club aims to “promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action.” More information about the club and its partners can be found on its website.