Court Orders Review Of Coal Mining’s Impact On Endangered Species

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A federal court on Friday approved a deal that requires two federal agencies to review the environmental impacts of coal mining on endangered species.

Under the agreement, the Office of Surface Mining, the agency that regulates mountaintop coal mining, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — the agency that protects endangered species, will review a 1996 document that lays out how coal mining is likely to affect endangered species or their habitat.

The deal came out of a lawsuit filed by environmental groups last year over the Guyandotte River crayfish in West Virginia. They argued the 1996 biological opinion was outdated.

Studies have shown that air and water pollution from coal mining can harm birds, fish, crayfish, insects and freshwater mussels as well as nearby communities.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has until October 16 to review the biological opinion and submit it to the Office of Surface Mining.

The review could affect a number of endangered species impacted by coal mining, not just the West Virginia crayfish, although under the court-approved deal the agencies must also adopt specific new guidance to prevent harm to the Guyandotte River crayfish.