News | October 16, 2009

State EMC sends water permit back for review

At a hearing on October 16, the Alabama Environmental Management Commission agreed with SELC's position on one of two important points in our legal challenge of ADEM's permit for the proposed Shepherd Bend coal mine in the Black Warrior watershed. We argued that ADEM had failed to set limits in Shepherd Bend, LLC's wastewater discharge permit for pollutants, including iron, aluminum, manganese, chlorides, and sulfates, to adequately protect water quality in Mulberry Fork. The discharge point would be just 800 feet upstream of an intake used by Birmingham for drinking water. That issue will go back for further hearings. On the other issue, the commission sided with ADEM. The agency's rules require that it approve a pollution-abatement plan for projects like the coal mine before issuing a permit. Shepherd Bend's application had no such plan. Nonetheless, ADEM issued the permit and said the Alabama Surface Mining Commission has authority over the plans – an illegal practice that has become the “norm” in Alabama. SELC will continue to pursue this critical issue, in court if necessary.