CHARLESTON – Massey Energy will sponsor a nature preserve and pay the United States $40,000, to settle claims that its mines discharged aluminum into public waters.

On May 11, Massey subsidiaries and four nature groups advised U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver that they signed a consent decree.

It calls for Massey to pay $400,000 to the West Virginia Land Trust, a private charity, "to conserve property of special significance in perpetuity."

It calls for Massey to increase support of the trust as a penalty for any future violations of water quality permits.

Copenhaver can't act on the agreement until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows 45 days for public comment.

Sierra Club, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and Coal River Mountain Watch sued Massey last year.

They claimed Massey failed to honor a previous consent decree with the United States.

They sought an injunction and damages under the federal Clean Water Act, which allows private citizens as well as the government to file suits over pollution.

They proposed penalties up to $37,500 per day for each violation, alleging enough violations to run the total into tens of millions.

Massey moved to dismiss, arguing the government should enforce its own decree.

Copenhaver denied Massey's motion in November, finding the decree assured citizens that private suits were available if violations continued.

EPA considered the threat of citizen suits necessary to achieve compliance, he wrote.

In January, Massey and the nature groups told Copenhaver they expected to reach agreement on a new decree in a few days.

It took four months to seal the deal.

Massey agreed to pay the West Virginia Land Trust $124,000 for surveys, assessments, reports, and appraisals, $106,000 for legal defense and stewardship, $100,000 for a part time outreach worker, and $70,000 for project planning and closing of easements.

Massey also agreed to pay $54,175 in legal fees, if Copenhaver approves the decree.

Derek Teaney, of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment in Lewisburg, will receive $28,380.

Joseph Lovett, of the same organization, will receive $14,070.

Jim Hecker, whose address doesn't appear in the record, will receive $7,000.

Jennifer Chavez, of Earthjustice in Washington, will receive $4,725.

Finally, Massey will pay the nature groups $22,303 in costs and expenses.

Robert McLusky and Matthew Tyree, both of Jackson Kelly in Charleston, represented Massey.

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