Court orders Corps to fix errors, but won’t toss coal permits

Alabama's Black Warrior River basin provides drinking water to Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. (© Beth Young)

For over two years, SELC and our partners have been working to get rid of a harmful, controversial permit that allows for unlimited filling of streams and wetlands with mining material in the Black Warrior River basin, a major source of drinking water for Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and other Alabama communities.

A federal court ruled in our favor this week by forcing the Corps to go back and reassess whether the impacts from surface mining activities at the 41 permitted sites are really minimal based on an admission by the Corps – on the eve of oral argument – that it dramatically underestimated impacts of this permit.

The use of this general approval, known as Nationwide Permit 21, has been suspended in other Appalachian states because of its detrimental impacts on water quality. One major concern with Nationwide Permit 21 is that it does not require individual review of each mining site, a practice that is a standard for most surface mining activities.

Unfortunately, the ruling stopped short of requiring that the 41 permits be vacated until the Corps finishes its recalculation, meaning unlimited stream filling can continue during that time.   

Read our full press release on the ruling.

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