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Appeals court rules against coal company in southwestern Va. pollution case

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RICHMOND, Virginia — A federal appeals court has upheld a judge's ruling that a company illegally discharged a pollutant into a Wise County creek.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected A&G Coal Corp.'s claim that it was not required to report it was discharging selenium when the company applied for a permit for its Kelly Branch mine. Studies have found selenium harmful to aquatic life, and to humans with high-level exposure.

Friday's ruling affirmed a July 2013 decision by U.S. District Judge James P. Jones in a lawsuit filed by Appalachian Mountain Stewards, the Sierra Club and Appalachian Voices.

Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote that allowing A&G to use the so-called permit shield defense would "tear a large hole" in the federal Clean Water Act.

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