Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 21, 2015

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681,

Agencies Pushed to Protect Two Endangered Species From
New Jim Justice Coal Mine in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va.— The Center for Biological Diversity notified the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today of the agencies’ obligation to protect two endangered species from a new coal mine in McDowell County owned by gubernatorial candidate Jim Justice. The Big Creek surface mine will destroy more than five miles of streams and 900 acres of hardwood forest, threatening northern long-eared bats and the Big Sandy crayfish. Environmental analyses have not adequately considered the damage to endangered species or downstream residents posed by the mine, which is directly above a church and upstream of a Head Start center.

Big Sandy crayfish
Big Sandy crayfish photo by Guenter Schuster. This photo is available for media use.

“Protecting endangered species like the bat and the crawdad from this coal mine will also help protect the health and property of the people who live downstream from it,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center.

The Center petitioned for Endangered Species Act protection for the northern long-eared bat in 2010, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded it protection in April 2015. The Center petitioned for protection for the Big Sandy crayfish in 2010, and the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to protect it last month. Under the Endangered Species Act, it is illegal to harm protected species or their habitat.

Justice, the owner of the Big Creek surface mine, is a billionaire who recently announced that he will run for governor of West Virginia as a Democrat. The coal mines he owns have been cited for more than 250 environmental violations in five states with unpaid penalties totaling roughly $2 million for violations that include wastewater releases, discharges of toxic selenium, failing to file pollution dumping records, and failing to report water-quality data. His mines also owe $1.5 million in overdue fines for safety violations according to an investigation by National Public Radio and Mine Safety and Health News; their analysis of federal records shows that Justice mines committed nearly 4,000 violations while they were delinquent.

“Jim Justice’s Big Creek mine permit exemplifies the need to shine a bright light on mining practices in Appalachia,” said Curry. “Despite the applicant’s pattern of violations and the fact that the permit documents are expired, inadequate, and inconsistent, this permit was rubber stamped. The environmental laws that apply in the rest of the country need to start applying in West Virginia.”

Pollution from surface coal mining in Appalachia has been linked to declines in downstream fish, salamanders, insects and mussels. Mining also threatens downstream communities with pollution and risk of flooding. More than 20 peer-reviewed scientific studies have linked mining pollution in Appalachia to health problems, including increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and birth defects. More than a million acres of hardwood forest and more than 2,000 miles of streams have already been destroyed by surface coal mining in Appalachia.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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