Industries Energy/Green

Alpha Natural Resources fined $27.5 million

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Alpha Natural Resources Inc. has been fined $27.5 million for alleged violations of its water discharge permits at mines in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

The fine is the largest ever for violation of water pollution permits.

The Bristol-based coal producer said Wednesday that it had reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and three state agencies regarding claims under the Clean Water Act. The consent decree, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, is subject to a public comment period and must be approved by the court before it becomes effective.

Under the plan, Alpha will implement an environmental management system, expand its auditing/reporting protocol and install selenium and osmotic pressure treatment facilities at certain locations.

The Associated Press reported that these measures will cost the company about $200 million to reduce discharge pollution. The AP said that the government alleges Alpha exceeded water pollution limits of state permits more than 6,000 times between 2006 and 2013.

The pollution discharged did not affect drinking water, the company said.

"This consent decree provides a framework for our efforts to become fully compliant with our environmental permits, specifically under the Clean Water Act," Alpha Senior Vice President of Environmental Affairs Gene Kitts said in a statement. He said the company complies with water permits 99.8 percent of the time.

Kitts points out that the company has doubled in size twice since 2006, acquiring more than 700 state water discharge permits. The AP said more than half of the violations occurred at mines that were formerly part of Massey Energy, which the company acquired in 2011.

"For an organization our size and with as varied a group of mining operations and permit conditions as we have, our people do an outstanding job in maintaining environmental compliance," said Kitts. "This settlement will provide a consistent structure to our efforts to become even better in preventing incidents and in responding quickly to situations where permit limits are exceeded."

Kitts said Alpha’s violations related mostly to naturally occurring elements, such as iron, manganese, aluminum and selenium, whose limits are sometimes exceeded when rainwater or groundwater transports the elements into the discharge from mining operations. 


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