Coal Tattoo

Stalling on selenium?

In early December, U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers declined to hold Apogee Coal Co. in contempt of court for continuing to stall the cleanup of selenium pollution from a mountaintop removal mine in Logan County. But Chambers indicated he was running out of patience with the Patriot Coal subsidiary, and would hold Apogee officials to a June 30, 2009, compliance deadline.

Recall that federal officials have found widespread selenium violations downstream from mountaintop removal operations, and the nation’s leading scientist of the issue warns that at least one West Virginia waterway is on the “brink of a major toxic event” because of selenium violations.

Earlier this month, Apogee lawyers filed a monthly report with Chambers, and told the judge the company was “attempting to comply in good faith” with the court’s deadlines.

But now, internal company documents filed in the case indicate Apogee has been, in effect, keeping two sets of books.

Apogee has been giving Chambers one calendar, showing that it will meet the court’s deadlines.  At the same time, the company’s consultants have been keeping a “realistic schedule” that delays compliance until at least September — three months after the court’s deadline.