THE LEGAL EXAMINER
The latest news from our Legal Examiner Blog.
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Coal Case Update
COAL DUST IN MOBILE ALABAMA
Mining, hauling and transferring coal are legitimate business activities and should be allowed so long as the public is protected from the toxic coal dust those activities create. The Fox 10 News environmental documentaries, by investigative reporter Kati Weise, leave no doubt that coal dust is a huge problem in Mobile. Large quantities of coal dust are accumulating on houses, cars, businesses, and public buildings in the Mobile community. Mobile County’s chief health officer, Dr. Bert Eichold, has testified that coal dust is a health hazard and fugitive emissions should be contained. So, what is happening?
In the fall of 2015, Cooper Marine got caught illegally operating a coal handling facility less than one mile north of the Wallace Tunnel. Cooper plead ignorance and applied for a permit. The Planning Approval Staff Report, prepared in connection with that application, documents that Cooper provides even less coal dust mitigation than a prior applicant who withdrew its request following community protest.
At hearings on Cooper’s request residents complained to the Planning Commission of coal dust accumulation on their property and presented medical articles documenting the toxic effects of coal dust. Even so, the Mobile Planning Commission gave Cooper permission to operate its open air coal handling facility next to the homes and businesses of downtown Mobile.
Residents appealed that decision to the City Council. Councilmembers Rich and Manzie voted with the residents, Councilmember Daves abstained but Councilmembers Gregory, Richardson, Small and Williams sided with Cooper. The residents’ appeal was denied 4-2.
Residents filed suit in the Circuit Court of Mobile County Alabama claiming that the decision to allow Cooper’s open air coal dust generating facility was “arbitrary and capricious” and that the statute under which it was issued is unconstitutional. The case was assigned to the Honorable Sarah H. Stewart, Circuit Judge Mobile County Alabama. On March 22, 2017 Judge Stewart denied motions to dismiss the complaint filed by Cooper and the City of Mobile.
So, the answer is that the case is moving forward! A discovery hearing is scheduled for April 28, 2017.
If you’d like more information, please email my assistant Matt Laird at the following email address firstname.lastname@example.org.