New water pollution suit filed against Massey

April 27, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

Four environmental groups have just filed a major new water pollution lawsuit against Massey Energy.

The suit targets Massey for allegedly violating permit limits for toxic aluminum at as many as 16 mines covered by seven Clean Water Act permits in West Virginia. The suit names Massey subsidiaries Elk Run Coal Co., Independence Coal Co., Marfork Coal Co., Peerless Eagle Coal Coal, and Power Mountain Coal Co.

According to a news release, some of the mines involved are also violating permit limits for other pollutants, including iron, pH, and suspended solids. In total, these mines racked up approximately 3,300 days of permit violations in the period from April 2008 through December 2009.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Charleston and a copy is posted here.

This suit follows a formal notice of intent to sue that was filed in January (see previous posts here and here). It was filed on behalf of the Sierra Club, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

Judy Bonds of Coal River Mountain Watch said:

Massey puts profits before people in communities. Massey is an outlaw company that continues to show contempt for the people of Appalachia.

Dianne Bady, co-director of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, said:

Massey’s water pollution violations seem as widespread as its safety violations. This lawsuit is part of our larger efforts to protect human health in the coalfields.

Don’t forget that Massey not so long ago paid a record $20 million in penalties to settle a federal government lawsuit over water pollution from its coal mines across the West Virginia and Kentucky coalfields.


Massey spokesman Jeff Gillenwater issued this statement –

The lawsuit lacks merit.  Massey Energy’s compliance rate with Clean Water Act requirements is well above 99%.  Massey offered to meet with these groups – who are opposed to coal mining generally – to discuss their concerns, but these groups chose to file a lawsuit instead.  We will defend the suit vigorously.

3 Responses to “New water pollution suit filed against Massey”

  1. clay ton says:

    U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin: Statement at Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing “Putting safety first”

    “The problem of repeat offenders is certainly not limited to the world of mining. Flagrant abuse of the law is common in many of our most dangerous industries. Unfortunately the penalties for breaking the law are often so minimal that employers can dismiss them as a minor cost of doing business. Currently, serious violations – where there is a “substantial probability of death or serious physical harm” – are subject to a maximum civil penalty of $7,000. That’s $18,000 less than the maximum fine for a Class I civil environmental violation under the Clean Air Act. Criminal penalties are also weak. If a worker dies because of the willful act of his or her employer, that employer faces a maximum conviction for a misdemeanor and up to six months in jail. In contrast, that same employer willfully violating the Clean Water Act could be fined up to $250,000 and spend up to 15 years in prison….Every year, tens of thousands of American workers are killed or permanently disabled by workplace injuries and occupational disease. In 2008, the latest available data, 5,214 workers were killed by traumatic injuries and an estimated 50,000-60,000 died from occupational diseases.”

    Workplace injuries damage the economy and cost the US taxpayer money, polluting the environment degrades life. We can do better and we will.

  2. Thomas Rodd says:

    The copy of the Complaint that Ken posted alleges that: “On or about October 28, 2008, WVDEP purported to relax . . . effluent limitations to 0.84 mg/l on a monthly average and 1.47 mg/l on a daily maximum through a minor modification. On information and belief, Plaintiffs allege that that minor modification was not subject to public notice and comment and, therefore, was ineffective to relax the aluminum effluent limitations in WV/NPDES Permit WV1002040.”

    This allegation is repeated in the Complaint for various effluent limitations at various permits. It looks like maybe one premise of the suit is that the WVDEP acted illegally in modifying the water quality standards for these permits. Or, I may be missing something related to this — the Complaint is pretty long and involved.

  3. When it rains, it pours! KUDOS to the Sierra Club and those organizations fpr taking action against Massey Energy! It is terrible (criminal?) that WV government has become so utterly useless regulating these thugs that people have to die and civil suits have to be brought to bring some damned accountability. I encourage more legal action against Massey, wherever it can be brought. Contribute to the Sierra Club. Perhaps we can create a legal action trust fund specifically for going after these thugs. I smell blood. And trust me, I really want some.

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