West Virginia Record

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Alpha Natural Resources faces heavy penalties in water quality claims

By Steve Korris | Aug 11, 2011

CHARLESTON –- Alpha Natural Resources, owner of the former Massey Energy, will pay $516,478 to settle claims that Massey mines polluted public water.

Alpha will also face heavy penalties for water quality violations under a consent decree that U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver signed on Aug. 8.

Nature groups pursuing Clean Water Act suits against Massey reported an agreement to Copenhaver in May, but U.S. Department of Justice lawyers delayed approval.

They wanted to know more about the West Virginia Land Trust, a non profit group that would receive $400,000 for a riparian preservation project.

The trust sent the Department of Justice a letter on May 13, confirming that it would use the funds solely for the purpose the settlement outlined.

The letter stated that the trust does not fund political lobbying activities.

On July 22, Matthew Leopold of the Department of Justice notified Copenhaver that the United States wouldn't object to the decree.

He wrote that the department believed the letter would help ensure that money would be used in a manner that furthers the purposes of the Clean Water Act.

"Furthermore, the United States affirms for the record that it is not bound by this settlement," he wrote.

He wrote that it didn't include any specific treatment requirements.

He reserved his right to seek injunctive relief and civil penalties for violations.

Copenhaver's order followed, finding the decree fair, adequate, and reasonable.

He wrote that the land trust would identify ecologically significant properties in the watersheds at issue in the litigation.

He wrote that the trust would work in partnership with the land use and sustainable development clinic at the West Virginia University College of Law.

In addition to $400,000 for the trust, Alpha must pay a $40,000 civil penalty to the United States and $76,478 to lawyers for the nature groups.

Derek Teaney of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment in Lewisburg billed $28,380 for 132 hours at $215 an hour.

Joseph Lovett of the same firm billed $14,070 for 42 hours at $335 an hour.

Jennifer Chavez of Earth Justice in Washington billed $4,725 for 27 hours at $175 an hour.

Jim Hecker, whose name doesn't appear on the roster of lawyers in the case, billed $7,000 for 20 hours at $350 an hour.

Alpha will also reimburse $22,303 in costs and expert expenses.

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

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