VOLUME 6 - 2013-2014 - ISSUE 1

The Scopes Monkey Trial Revisited:
How the Coal Industry and the Surface Mining States Ignore Science to the Detriment of the Appalachian Environment

Sarah J. Surber

6 Ky. J. Equine, Agric. & Nat. Resources L. 59 (2013).

Over the past decade, scientists and environmental advocacy groups have challenged the proliferation of surface mining and especially mountaintop removal (“MTR”) in Appalachia. However, MTR has been viable simply because the industry has not been required to meet the basic requirements of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”)—a costly endeavor for any industry, but particularly the surface coal mining industry. The West Virginia Division of Mining and Reclamation in the Department of Environmental Protection (“WVDEP”) has failed to include permit limits for surface coal mining operations for pollutants that these operations had a reasonable potential to exceed water quality-based standards. This is a violation of both the CWA and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (“SMCRA”), as well as the state laws and regulations implementing the state programs.