Environmental groups to sue Massey Energy for ignoring thousands of violations of the Clean Water Act and surface mining laws.
A coalition of environmental groups has taken action against coal giant Massey Energy for over 12,000 violations of the Clean Water Act and surface mining laws associated with their mining activity in West Virginia. The notice of intent (pdf) filed by the environmental groups gives Massey sixty days to come into compliance with state and federal standards before civil action is brought against the coal company.
The notice of intent states that Massey exceeded its effluent limits at various operations at least 971 times, accruing 12,977 days of violation between April 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009. But the groups bringing suit note that this is not the first time Massey has been in such blatant violation of Federal clean water standards, including one of the largest slurry spills ever in the U.S.
And in 2008, the company was fined $20 million for Clean Water Act violations, similar to those cited by the coalition. The complaint in that case (United States v. Massey) alleged over 60,000 violations over a six-year period.
"Massey has operated outside the law for far too long," said Judy Bonds of Coal River Mountain Watch, one of the groups threatening the lawsuit. "There is a history here, not only of Massey ignoring the law, but of state officials ignoring Massey's violations."
Despite the hefty fine, the coalition argues that Massey’s violations have grown more frequent after the settlement with EPA than they were before EPA brought its enforcement action.
"Massey seems to think that poisoning water by consistently ignoring laws is an acceptable business practice. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection seems to agree, as they continue to allow these violations. We are forced to do the agencies job, to hold Massey accountable," said Diane Bady of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.
Massey fires back, denies allegations of "tree-hugging extremists"
Soon after the notice of intent was filed, Massey Energy denied the allegations. The company released a statement saying: "On first review, the data and conclusions in the notice appear to be significantly incorrect. The Company’s compliance rate is well above 99%."
The statement goes on to say that "the threatened suit is but another attempt by out of state extremists to attack the coal industry, which works hard to provide domestic energy and domestic jobs."
But critics point out that Massey has done little to support its own workforce. Kevin Grandia DeSmogBlog writes: "I am assuming that when Massey talks about fighting for Appalachian jobs they aren't referring to the fact that earlier in 2009 they cut employee pay by 6% and then recently increased the performance bonus for Massey's CEO, Don Blankenship, by $600,000."
This is not the first time that Blankenship's inflammatory remarks toward environmentalists have made headlines. In July of 2009, Blankenship's speech at the 'Friends of America Rally'--a pro-coal political rally in West Virginia--was critical of environmentalists, corporations and (seemingly) anyone residing in Washington, DC.
And in a series of quasi-political attack ads running in West Virginia the chief of Massey Coal also warned about the threat "tree-hugging extremists" have on the American worker.
Massey Energy and its subsidiaries operate dozens of mountaintop removal and other large-scale surface mines in Appalachia, using some of the more environmentally destructive types of mining, including mountaintop removal.
Massey said it would be "evaluating its legal options with respect to the inaccurate statements from these groups.”
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