Lawsuits Filed Against Coal Company Violating Clean Water Act
On Nov. 7, the Sierra Club and its partners, the Tennessee Clean Water Network and Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, filed three suits in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee to enforce pollution limits on two coal mines and one coal mine waste disposal area owned and operated by National Coal, LLC. According to the company’s own monitoring, National Coal continues to violate legal limits on its selenium discharge into local waterways. The coalition filed suit in order to protect the residents and wildlife of Tennessee that depend on the state’s waterways for clean water.
The Clean Water Act governs the legal limits of various forms of pollution allowed in mining and waste disposal. The Clean Water Act also requires mining companies to test and disclose the results of water sampling at mining and disposal sites. National Coal’s records show consistent violations for selenium, iron and manganese at these sites. As a result of these egregious violations, the coalition has now filed suit in federal court under the citizen suit provisions of both the Clean Water Act to enforce the permit limits.
“The kinds of pollutants National Coal is releasing into Tennessee’s waters can cause health problems as well as serious environmental damage,” said Axel Ringe, vice conservation chair for the Tennessee Chapter Sierra Club. “Repeat violators like National Coal need to know that wanton polluting of Tennessee’s waterways has serious consequences for local residents and won’t be allowed to continue unchecked.”
The lawsuits filed Nov. 8 follow several other recent Clean Water Act enforcement actions brought by the Sierra Club and other partner organizations that have resulted in significant protections for Appalachian streams and the communities that rely on them, including the installation and operation of treatment technology that will reduce selenium pollution from mines owned by Arch Coal and Patriot Coal.
“Citizens must continue to hold a zero-tolerance attitude toward companies that pollute our watersheds,” said Cathie Bird, chair of the E3 Committee of Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment. “Without clean water, communities can’t thrive. That’s why we have laws to protect our water, and we’ll work hard to hold companies accountable when they pollute our streams.”
Selenium, a toxic element that causes reproductive failure and deformities in fish and other forms of aquatic life, is discharged from many surface coal-mining operations across Appalachia. At very high levels, selenium can pose a risk to human health, causing hair and fingernail loss, kidney and liver damage, and damage to the nervous and circulatory systems. Further, in clinically toxic doses, manganese can lead to motor imbalance and psychiatric disorders and over consumption of iron can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and heart conditions.
"Tennesseans rely on our rivers, lakes and streams for clean water," said Renée Victoria Hoyos, executive director, of the Tennessee Clean Water Network. "National Coal regularly and knowingly pollutes the waterways around these three locations. It is simply unacceptable and these suits are critical to ensuring that polluters like National Coal take our health and the impacts their actions have on the environment seriously."
The coalition is represented by Joe Lovett and Mike Becher with the Appalachian Mountain Advocates, and Gena Lewis and Michael Bernard.
For more information on selenium, click here.
For more information, click here.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.
Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.
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