Copenhaver

CHARLESTON – Two water pollution suits against Massey Energy subsidiaries belong in two federal courts, U.S. District Judge Copenhaver decided on Oct. 1.

He denied Massey's motion to consolidate a suit before District Judge Robert Chambers of Huntington with a case in his own court at Charleston.

Copenhaver's case involves alleged discharges of aluminum, iron, and suspended solids from Massey coal mines, while the case before Chambers involves selenium.

Sierra Club, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and Coal River Mountain Watch filed both suits this year.

They alleged Massey violated the Clean Water Act and state water permits.

Copenhaver previously had presided over a consent decree between U.S. regulators and Massey, applying to aluminum, iron, and solids.

Chambers had previously presided over a consent decree between nature groups and Patriot Coal subsidiaries, applying to selenium.

Massey moved for consolidation in July, arguing that suits against it belong together.

Nature groups argued that selenium suits belong together, and Copenhaver agreed.

"It seems apparent that the judicial officer presiding in the Huntington action has both extensive experience and significant expertise in dealing with selenium discharge issues," he wrote. "It is undisputed that Judge Chambers has devoted significant time and effort to the issue in cases at various stages of development before him, one of which is the Huntington action."

Copenhaver wrote that the consent decree in his court didn't mention selenium.

He has set trial for April 26, and Chambers has set trial for June 7.

Derek Teaney and Joseph Lovett, of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment in Lewisburg, represent the nature groups. So does Jennifer Chavez of Earthjustice, in Washington.

Robert McLusky and Douglas Crouse, of Jackson Kelly in Charleston, represent Massey.

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