Coal Tattoo

Details of Arch Coal selenium deal outlined

We reported about three months ago that a settlement was in the works in the environmental community’s lawsuit against Arch Coal Inc. over continued and repeated selenium violations at some of its operations in Southern West Virginia.

Last Thursday, lawyers for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and other groups filed this proposed consent decree with U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers in Huntington. And today, the environmental group plaintiffs issued a news release announcing:

A coalition of conservation and environmental groups recently completed a legal settlement with Arch Coal and its subsidiaries which will require the coal mining company to clean up toxic run off from six coal mines in West Virginia. The original suit was filed against Arch in June of 2010 for violating limits on selenium at those locations. The suit was brought by the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and Coal River Mountain Watch.

Under the deal, Arch Coal has agreed to install new equipment to control discharges and end selenium violations at the Logan County operations targeted by the suit. The company has also agreed to pay the citizen group legal expenses, pay a $200,000 fine to the federal government, and contribute $1.8 million to the Land Use and Sustainable Development Clinic at West Virginia University’s College of Law.

This is the latest in a series of legal victories for environmental groups who are trying to force the coal industry to clean up its selenium and other water pollution (see here, here and here for more). There’s also a settlement in the works in another case involving Massey/Alpha.

Cindy Rank, mining chair of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, said:

The ongoing decline in water quality and diversity of aquatic life due to high levels of selenium being discharged from mines is totally unacceptable. Settlements such as this one with Arch Coal will help address the current problems and for that we are grateful. But to truly protect our valuable and vital headwater streams we must find a more permanent solution aimed at preventing the pollution in the first place.