W. Va.: Massey Energy Hit with Lawsuit, Alleging Clean Water Act Violations

May 15, 2007

West Virginia coal producer Massey Energy Co. and its subsidiaries have illegally poured pollutants into West Virginia and Kentucky waterways 4,633 times within the last six years, federal prosecutors allege in a case brought under the Clean Water Act.

The U.S. District Court lawsuit asks a judge to block further discharges and fine seven of the subsidiaries either $27,500 or $32,500 for each day of violation, depending on when each occurred.

The lawsuit cited “an extensive history of violating the Clean Water Act.”

The federal action was filed May 10 in Charleston, W. Va. It comes after the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration levied $1.5 million in fines against Massey last month. Those penalties are for 25 violations stemming from a fire at the company’s Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine that killed two miners.

The January 2006 fire remains the subject of a federal criminal probe. West Virginia regulators have fined the company $70,000 over Aracoma violations, while the miners’ widows have sued Massey, several subsidiaries and CEO and Chairman Don Blankenship.

Blankenship and other Massey officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The new federal lawsuit threatens civil penalties against Elk Run Coal Co., Sidney Coal Co., Martin County Coal Co., Independence Coal Co., Omar Mining Co., Bandmill Coal Corp. and Marfork Coal Co.

Massey operates 19 mining complexes in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. The company is the fourth-largest coal producer by revenue in the United States.

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