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Lawsuits: Reclaimed W.Va. mines still polluting
Environmental activists say three reclaimed mountaintop removal mining sites are still polluting West Virginia waterways, and they're suing the current landowners in a novel attempt to stop it.
The lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Huntington say state and federal regulators are doing nothing to end water pollution from old surface mines after they've been cleaned up, graded and replanted with vegetation, so the landowners must be held accountable.
The litigation signals a new strategy from the environmental community, which has long sued coal companies over pollution but rarely sued after their operations are reclaimed and released from bonding and permit requirements.
Sierra Club attorney Peter Morgan said his group is looking at the "full life cycle" of mines to dispel the myth that they no longer threaten the environment when they're done producing coal.
"The landowners that we've targeted are corporate landowners, so we're hoping they have some influence over the mining companies and the regulators," he said Wednesday. "We're trying to take advantage of their leverage.
"We suspect they don't want this liability identified," he added. "They don't want to be left holding the bag for what the mining operators