A collection of regional environmental groups is threatening to sue coal and energy companies over what they call "egregious violations" of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).

According to a news release, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Appalachian Voices and the Sierra Club have partnered together to send notice-to-sue letters to the parent companies of 15 different coal facilities.

Those named include the Red Fox Surface Mine in McDowell County, which is operated by a subsidiary of the Justice Group, a company owned by the family of Gov. Jim Justice.

According to the release, that mine is discharging twice as much selenium and 10 times as much aluminum as is allowed under federal law with the data coming from the federal government and the mining activities themselves.

“These notice letters make clear that every stage of the coal cycle is irredeemably dirty,” Peter Morgan, senior attorney for the Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program, said in the release. “Worse, the notice letters also make clear that federal and state regulators continue to look the other way while communities suffer.”

According to the release, after 60 days, if the companies don't comply with federal standards, then the environmental groups will seek relief in federal court.

“This chronic and widespread problem of unfettered illegal activity has already stacked up too much harm to our waters,” Angie Rosser, executive director for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, said in the release. “We simply can’t stand by and watch coal companies get a free pass while our streams, and the residents that depend on them, pay the price. Something has to change.”

In addition to the Justice Group mine in McDowell County, the groups sent letters to Murray American Energy for mining activities in the northern part of the state, the Lexington Coal Company, Southeastern Land, MEPCO Inc., the Black Castle Mining Company, American Bituminous Power Partners, Eagle Natrium and Consol.

Two of the mining activities listed under Southeastern Land take place in Nicholas County.

-- Email:; follow on Twitter @mattcombsRH

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