Coal Tattoo


Two years ago, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached a record $20 million Clean Water Act settlement with Massey Energy, this was the lead of my Gazette story on the deal:

Federal environmental regulators believe a record $20 million fine, new pollution monitoring requirements and the threat of automatic penalties for additional violations will force Massey Energy co. to change the way it does business.

Well … it hasn’t turned out that way, at least according to a new formal Notice of Intent to Sue sent to Massey last week by the Sierra Club, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

According to the legal notice, which I’ve posted here:

Remarkably, Massey’s violations have grown more frequent after the settlement with EPA than they were before EPA brought its enforcement action.


Gazette photo by Chip Ellis

Specifically, the notice alleges that, Between April 1, 2008, and March 31, 2009, Massey violated its effluent limits at its various operations at least 971 times, and accrued 12,977 days of violation during that 12-month period. The U.S. government’s lawsuit against Massey, which resulted in the $20 million settlement, alleged more than 60,000 days of violations over a six-year period, or about 10,000 days of violations per year.

The legal notice warns Massey that the citizen groups plan to file a lawsuit against the company, seeking civil penalties and a court order that Massey stop the violations.

Diane Bady of OVEC said:

Massey seems to think that poisoning water by consistently ignoring laws is an acceptable business practice. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection seems to agree, as they continue to allow these violations. We are forced to do the agencies job, to hold Massey accountable.

I’ve asked Massey officials for a comment, and will update this post when I hear from them.

UPDATED … Massey issued the following statement:

The Company just received notice of a potential lawsuit and is currently reviewing the allegations.  On first review, the data and conclusions in the notice appear to be significantly incorrect.  The Company’s compliance rate is well above 99%.

The threatened suit is but another attempt by out of state extremists to attack the coal industry, which works hard to provide domestic energy and domestic jobs.  The Company is evaluating its legal options with respect to the inaccurate statements from these groups.