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S. Appalachian Mt. Stewards v. Red River Coal Co.

United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Big Stone Gap Division

September 24, 2019, Decided; September 24, 2019, Filed

Case No. 2:17CV00028



In this environmental case, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Appalachian Voices, and The Sierra Club (collectively, "SAMS") have sued Red River Coal Company, Inc. ("Red River") for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act ("CWA"), the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act ("SMCRA"), and, in the alternative, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act ("RCRA"), by discharging pollutants without permit authority. Red River has filed a related declaratory judgment action, Case No. 2:17CV00021, seeking a declaration that it is not violating the CWA and SMCRA, but the motions at bar have been filed solely in this case.

After conducting discovery, Red River has moved for summary judgment on SAMS's claims for relief. SAMS has moved [**2]  for partial summary judgment on the issue of its standing. The motions have been fully briefed and orally argued and are ripe for decision. For the reasons that follow, I will grant SAMS's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and will grant Red River's Motion for Summary Judgment.

The relevant facts are largely uncontested. The following facts taken from the summary judgment record are either undisputed or, where disputed, are presented in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.

Red River operates a surface coal mine in this judicial district called the North Fox Gap Surface Mine ("Mine"). The Mine discharges pollutants into the South Fork Pound River, Rat Creek, Stillhouse Branch, and other unnamed tributaries. Some of the discharges are governed by effluent limits in the Mine's combined SMCRA and National Pollution Discharge Elimination System ("NPDES") permit. The discharges include substances that contribute to total dissolved solids ("TDS")  [*485]  and conductivity. Virginia has classified the South Fork of the Pound River as biologically impaired due to its high level of TDS.

The area in which the Mine is located was mined extensively before SMCRA was enacted. That historic surface [**3]  mining polluted the South Fork Pound River watershed by exposing toxic overburden material, which weathered and leached, causing acidic surface runoff and seepage. Discharges from pre-SMCRA underground mining have also polluted the watershed.

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420 F. Supp. 3d 481 *; 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 163881 **; 2019 WL 4674318


Prior History: Red River Coal Co. v. Sierra Club, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8540 (W.D. Va., Jan. 19, 2018)


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