Nature groups settle water quality case with Massey subsidiaries

By Steve Korris | Jul 21, 2011


HUNTINGTON – Nature groups and subsidiaries of the former Massey Energy settled a water quality dispute and called off trial before U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers.

"Counsel anticipate submitting a proposed consent decree shortly," Chambers wrote on July 7, five days before trial would have started.

He scheduled a telephone conference for July 26, writing that he would set a new trial date if the parties can't conclude their agreement.

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Sierra Club, Coal River Mountain Watch and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy sued Coal-Mac and other Massey companies last year, claiming their mines discharged selenium, a toxic element, into streams.

In March, Chambers found he must grant injunctive relief and assess a civil penalty for frequent violations of water quality permits.

"Although monetary penalties are sought, much of the harm to the environment is already taking place; legal penalties are inadequate to compensate plaintiffs for their injury," he wrote.

He wrote that he would set a hearing on relief and penalties, but it didn't happen.

As part of the settlement, the nature groups agreed to drop a motion to intervene in a consent decree Arch Coal and the United States proposed in federal court at Charleston.

The groups sought to increase a $4 million civil penalty Arch Coal agreed to pay, along with other changes.

U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver of Charleston granted intervention in June, but he limited the range and length of their involvement.

In a third water quality suit involving the nature groups and former Massey companies, Chambers plans a bench trial on penalties and relief starting Aug. 11.

In the course of the cases, Alpha Natural Resources acquired Massey.

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