EPA sues coal companies, alleges burying streams without permits

Mining companies buried sections of streams in Eastern Kentucky without getting proper permits, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The companies should restore the sites or pay for mitigation projects elsewhere, or both, the agency said in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court in Pikeville Wednesday.

The EPA suit also seeks damages that could, in theory, run into the millions of dollars.

The companies named in the lawsuit are Frasure Creek Mining; Essar Minerals; Trinity Coal Group; Trinity Coal partners; Bear Fork Resources; Falcon Resources; and Prater Branch Resources.

Beginning in 2005, the companies or their agents buried a total of 11,256 feet of streams at one surface mine in Pike County and another on the Magoffin — Floyd County line without getting the required federal permit, according to the lawsuit.

In mountaintop mining, companies blast off the upper reach of a mountain to uncover coal seams, then, typically, put excess rock into nearby hollows.

Those are called hollow fills, or valley fills. They often bury sections of streams.

Coal companies are required to get a federal permit to construct the fills and sediment ponds to catch runoff.

The companies built three fills and five sediment ponds without ever getting permits to do so, the complaint alleges.

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