Read the judge's ruling here.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A bill backed by the coal industry and the Tomblin administration will not shield mine operators from citizen group lawsuits for violations of West Virginia's water quality standards, a federal judge ruled this week.
U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers concluded that the legislation passed in 2012 does not protect Alpha Natural Resources from a lawsuit over alleged violations of the state's standard for toxic selenium.
The judge issued the ruling Thursday in a case in which Coal River Mountain Watch said discharges from Alpha's Brushy Fork coal-slurry impoundment in Raleigh County are causing selenium violations downstream.
Under the federal Clean Water Act, citizen groups can bring suit in federal court to try to stop violations of water pollution standards.
In West Virginia, citizen groups represented by lawyers from Appalachian Mountain Advocates have been successful in using such lawsuits to force companies to curb selenium discharges that have been linked to deformed fish and reduced fish populations downstream from mountaintop removal operations.