Massey Energy to pay $20 million for wastewater permit discharge violations

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by Jessica Sabbath

Richmond-based Massey Energy Co. Inc. will pay the largest civil penalty on record for wastewater discharge permit violations at coal mines in West Virginia and Kentucky.

Massey Energy will pay $20 million for violating the Clean Water Act and spend $10 million to develop procedures to prevent future violations. As part of the settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department, the coal company must also create 20 projects downstream from coal mines. It will also set aside 200 acres of riverfront property in West Virginia to be conserved.

The company has also promised to develop methods at its facilities to prevent an estimated 380 million pounds of sediment and other pollutants from entering waterways. That includes using a computer tracking system to monitor water quality and detect leaks at the company’s coal preparation facilities.

“We believe this agreement will benefit the environment as well as our shareholders,” said Baxter F. Phillips Jr., company’s executive vice president and chief administrative officer, in a statement.

The government filed a complaint in May 2007, alleging that Massey violated the Clean Air Act more than 4,500 times in 2000 through 2006. The complaint alleged that Massey discharged metals, sediment and acid mine drainage into rivers — with many pollutants as much as 40 percent higher than allowed under the Clean Air Act. Some pollutants were found to be 10 times higher than the amount allowed.

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