Massey Energy pays largest civil penalty ever for water
Massey Energy Company, Inc. has agreed to pay a $20
million civil penalty in a corporate-wide settlement to resolve Clean
Water Act violations at coal mines in West Virginia and Kentucky, the
Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced.
This is the largest civil penalty in EPA’s history levied against a company
for wastewater discharge permit violations.
As part of the settlement, Massey, the fourth largest coal company in
the United States, has agreed to take measures at all of its facilities
that will prevent an estimated 380 million pounds of sediment and other
pollutants from entering the nation’s waters each year. These compliance
measures are unprecedented in the coal mining industry.
In a complaint filed on May 10, 2007, the government alleged that Massey
violated its Clean Water Act permits more than 4,500 times between January
2000 and December 2006. The complaint alleged that Massey discharged
excess amounts of metals, sediment, and acid mine drainage into hundreds
of rivers and streams in West Virginia and Kentucky. Many of the pollutants
were discharged in amounts 40 percent or more than allowed. Some pollutants
were discharged at levels more than 10 times over the permit limits.
The complaint also alleged that Massey spilled large amounts of slurry,
which is waste containing metals and sediment, into local waterways numerous
times. The spills occurred as a result of failures in the processing,
storage, and transportation of coal slurry.
In addition to the penalty, Massey will invest approximately $10 million
to develop and implement a set of procedures to prevent future violations.
Massey will implement an innovative electronic tracking system that allows
the company to quickly address compliance problems and correct any violations
of permit limits. This measure fits within a comprehensive environmental
compliance program that Massey has agreed to implement, which includes
in-depth internal and third-party audits, employee training, and a plan
to prevent future slurry spills.
Massey will also set aside 200 acres of riverfront land in West Virginia
for conservation purposes and protection from future mining. The company
is also required to perform 20 projects downstream from mining operations.
The consent decree, lodged in the United States District Court for the
Southern District of West Virginia, is subject to a 30-day public comment
period and approval by the federal court.