Read the deal at http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Patriot Coal has agreed to a major legal settlement that will require the company to clean up dozens of illegal discharges of toxic selenium at three major mining complexes in Southern West Virginia, according to court records filed Wednesday.
Attorneys for the Sierra Club and other groups negotiated the deal with Patriot to resolve ongoing litigation following a September 2010 federal court ruling that began forcing coal operators to deal with selenium violations around the state's coalfields.
The Patriot deal, outlined in a consent decree filed after the financial markets closed for the day, is the most significant in a series of water pollution settlements worked out by citizen organizations in the last year.
"This is the culmination of years of work on this issue," said attorney Joe Lovett of Appalachian Mountain Advocates, which represented citizen groups in the case. "We're very pleased that the coal industry will have to pay the costs of its business and clean up polluted waters."
Selenium discharges have become a growing concern for the industry -- and a frequent target for environmental groups -- in the wake of government studies and recent scientific papers outlined widespread violations and links to deformed fish downstream from major mountaintop removal operations.
The Patriot deal covers 43 pollution outlets associated with 10 water discharge permits at three of Patriot's mining complexes, Hobet 21 along the Boone-Lincoln county line, Samples in Kanawha County, and Ruffner in Logan County.
Under the settlement, Patriot must construct and operate new selenium treatment systems that will end ongoing water quality violations. Discharges must be brought into compliance with pollution limits in phases over the next two to five years, based on the water and pollution flow. Smaller outlets must be cleaned up first, with a limited number of larger discharges having the latest deadlines.
"Selenium is an issue that many companies involved in coal mining must confront," said Patriot CEO Richard Whiting. "Today's settlement by Patriot represents a strategic response to this challenging framework. We believe the consent decree serves the interests of both the public and our stockholders."
Patriot will also pay $750,000 in fines to the federal government and contribute $6.75 million to the West Virginia Land Trust.