Mining the Mountains

In West Virginia, mining companies are literally moving mountains to uncover valuable, low sulfur coal reserves. Mountaintop removal has become the dominant form of surface mining in the state. Coal operators are blasting off hilltops, and dumping leftover rock and dirt into nearby valleys. An untold amount of the state has been flattened, and hundreds of miles of streams have been buried. Find out more in this Special Report.
Strip mine pollution impaired streams, judge rules

Strip mine pollution impaired streams, judge rules

Pollution from a Fola Coal Co. mountaintop removal operation along the Clay-Nicholas County border has impaired aquatic life in two area streams, a federal judge ruled in the latest in a series of such decisions.

WV groups hope study leads to end of mountaintop removal mining

WV groups hope study leads to end of mountaintop removal mining

LOGAN — West Virginia environmental groups on Tuesday urged a National Academy of Sciences panel to look carefully at the public health impact of strip mining, saying they hope more scrutiny of the issue will lead...

Justice gives closed-door talk to WV DEP inspectors

Justice gives closed-door talk to WV DEP inspectors

Gov. Jim Justice gave a closed-door speech on Tuesday to hundreds of state Department of Environmental Protection inspectors, in which the governor said he repeated his message that he wants DEP officials to stop saying “no” to state...

Water pollution changes lost when coal bill passed

Water pollution changes lost when coal bill passed

Lawmakers approved controversial language that could increase the amount of toxic chemicals discharged into West Virginia’s river and streams, but they later removed the language from state law with the passage of a bill aimed at lessening a...

WV House passes coal industry bill

WV House passes coal industry bill

A bill that consolidates some state coal oversight boards and lessens a water quality restriction for the mining industry was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Delegates on Friday.

WV House retains coal bill language easing water protections

WV House retains coal bill language easing water protections

House of Delegates members voted overwhelmingly on Thursday that the state Department of Environmental Protection should not set a goal that every West Virginia stream will support a “balanced aquatic community” that is “diverse...

Coal’s water pollution bill moves toward passage

Coal’s water pollution bill moves toward passage

A bill to lessen water quality restrictions for the West Virginia coal industry advanced on Tuesday to the House floor and another step toward likely passage.

Environmental groups urge changes to coal bill

Environmental groups urge changes to coal bill

Environmental organizations and citizen groups turned out Monday to urge lawmakers to strip from a coal industry bill language that would force state regulators to remove consideration of the diversity of aquatic communities when...

Coal bill passes WV Senate

Coal bill passes WV Senate

The state Senate on Wednesday evening approved a bill that makes relatively minor changes in West Virginia’s mine safety laws, but rewrites the state Department of Environmental Protection’s definition of a healthy stream to remove...

Coal bill moves to WV Senate floor, with water quality changes intact

Coal bill moves to WV Senate floor, with water quality changes intact

A bill that was once aimed at dismantling West Virginia’s mine safety enforcement agency advanced Tuesday in the Senate, with...

Governor examines bill that reduces WV mine safety enforcement

Governor examines bill that reduces WV mine safety enforcement

Gov. Jim Justice and his staff are examining proposed legislation that would strip West Virginia regulators of almost all their ability to enforce mine safety and health standards, and have yet to take a position on the bill.

House passes bill that allows increased water pollution

House passes bill that allows increased water pollution

A bill that allows increased discharges of toxic pollution into West Virginia’s rivers and streams now is headed for the state Senate, after it was passed by the House of Delegates Wednesday following a somewhat confusing and emotional debate....

Water pollution bill advances, despite strong opposition at public hearing

Water pollution bill advances, despite strong opposition at public hearing

Despite strong opposition at a public hearing, little analysis by lawmakers of potential environmental impact and no data to support promises of new jobs, a bill that ...

Water pollution bill makes broad changes sought by industry

Water pollution bill makes broad changes sought by industry

A water pollution bill moving quickly through the Legislature would allow more toxic discharges to West Virginia’s rivers and streams and — with the support of Gov. Jim Justice’s administration — implement broader, industry-...

WVDEP: ‘No complaints filed’ of shabbily dressed inspectors

WVDEP: ‘No complaints filed’ of shabbily dressed inspectors

While Gov. Jim Justice has at least twice blasted the way he says West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection inspectors dress on the job, no one else seems to be too concerned about the issue.

EPA adversary Pruitt confirmed to head agency

EPA adversary Pruitt confirmed to head agency

WASHINGTON — Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma’s attorney general spent years suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its efforts to regulate various forms of pollution, was confirmed Friday as the...

MCHM mixture new to coal plant where spill occurred

MCHM mixture new to coal plant where spill occurred

A small leak last week of a chemical mixture containing MCHM occurred just two weeks after an Alpha Natural Resources coal preparation plant began using the material, which was the main ingredient in the January 2014 Elk River spill.

Justice continues criticism of WVDEP inspectors

Justice continues criticism of WVDEP inspectors

Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday doubled down on his criticism of his own state Department of Environmental Protection, using a speech to a group of oil and gas operators to increase his attacks on the way he says DEP inspectors dress when they inspect...

Judge blasts WVDEP, EPA over lack of mine pollution cleanup

Judge blasts WVDEP, EPA over lack of mine pollution cleanup

A federal judge on Tuesday blamed repeated delays by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and weak oversight by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the state’s failure to write and implement...

Citizen groups gear up for water-protection fight

Citizen groups gear up for water-protection fight

After Gov. Jim Justice's promise Wednesday night to rein in what he depicted as out-of-control state regulators, and following a meeting with Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton, environmental groups are gearing up for...

Justice says he’s going to make DEP stop saying ‘no’ to industry

Justice says he’s going to make DEP stop saying ‘no’ to industry

Gov. Jim Justice promised Wednesday night that on his watch West Virginia business and industry would stop hearing “no” from the state Department of Environmental Protection, an 800-person agency whose rank-and-file inspectors the governor ...

DEP’s Caperton files late financial disclosure with Ethics Commission

DEP’s Caperton files late financial disclosure with Ethics Commission

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton on Wednesday filed a financial disclosure statement with the state Ethics Commission, reporting that at least 20 percent of his income last year came from the mining equipment...

WV DEP lax in its mining oversight, 3-year federal investigation says

WV DEP lax in its mining oversight, 3-year federal investigation says

A three-year investigation by the U.S. Department of the Interior has documented persistent failures by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to enforce state rules governing the coal-mining industry, including a lack of proper...

Trump regulation plan could cripple safety protections, experts say

Trump regulation plan could cripple safety protections, experts say

Suppose the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration wanted to finally update its decades-old rule on exposure to silica dust to help protect coal miners...