News | November 16, 2012

Defending Alabama’s Rivers from Coal Mine Pollution

SELC and its partners continue to wage a legal campaign to reform Alabama’s woefully lax approach to regulating pollution from new coal mines in the Black Warrior River basin. For several years we have been engaged in a court battle to overturn the state’s decision to allow the 1,700-acre Shepherd Bend mine to release wastewater just upstream from an intake for the Birmingham Water Works—the source of drinking water for some 200,000 people. Two cases are now pending:

  • SELC and Black Warrior Riverkeeper challenged the Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s decision to issue a permit to Shepherd Bend under the Clean Water Act. The case is now before the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.
  • The Birmingham Water Works Board challenged the Alabama Surface Mining Commission’s decision to issue Shepherd Bend a permit under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. The case is now before the Alabama Surface Mining Commission’s Division of Hearings and Appeals.


As a result of past failures to enforce environmental laws, many of the state’s rivers and streams are polluted by runoff carrying acids, heavy metals and sediment. The goal of our litigation is to ensure that state agencies do their duty to prevent coal mine pollution from doing further harm to water quality in the Black Warrior River and its tributaries.