Chambers

HUNTINGTON – Former Massey Energy subsidiaries will pay $1.8 million to an environmental law clinic at West Virginia University over four years to settle a suit claiming they contaminated streams with toxic element selenium.

Coal-Mac and Mingo Loan Coal, now Alpha Natural Resources subsidiaries, agreed to the payment in a consent decree they and nature groups filed on Sept. 29.

The companies also agreed to pay a $200,000 civil penalty to the United States.

They also agreed to pay $145,385.92 to lawyers for the nature groups at the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, in Lewisburg.

The payments would complete settlement of a suit that led Coal-Mac and Mingo Logan Coal to develop plans for reducing selenium discharges into five streams.

The decree would provide further penalties if the plans don't succeed, and it would allow the nature groups to propose better plans.

The payment to university would flow to a Land Use and Sustainability Clinic that the law school started with a payment from Powellton Coal in a similar suit.

The new money will allow the clinic to hire a managing attorney, two support attorneys, a land use planner, and an office manager.

According to an appendix to the decree, the school hired Nathan Fetty as managing attorney of the clinic on Sept. 1.

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Coal River Mountain Watch and Sierra Club filed the suit last year.

They alleged contamination of five streams in the Kanawha River watershed.

U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers granted them summary judgment this March, finding they were entitled to permanent injunctive relief.

He planned a trial this July on the nature and scope of relief, but called it off when the parties told him they made progress toward a settlement.

The consent decree would remain in effect at each location until mine operators achieve 100 percent compliance with selenium limits for six consecutive months.

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