Massey sued by Feds

Coal firms violated Clean Air Act more than 4,630 times, prosecutors allege

By The Associated Press

Federal prosecutors allege that Massey Energy Co. and its subsidiaries have illegally poured pollutants into West Virginia and Kentucky waterways about 4,633 times within the past six years — roughly 69,071 days’ worth of violations of the U.S. Clean Water Act.

The U.S. District Court lawsuit asks a judge to block further discharges and fine seven of the subsidiaries either $27,500 or $32,500 for each day of violation, depending on when each occurred.

The lawsuit attributed “an extensive history of violating the Clean Water Act” to Massey operations.

“Despite several prior enforcement actions, including two criminal plea agreements, settlement of suspension and debarment matters, civil actions by the state of West Virginia and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and private suits by citizens of West Virginia and Kentucky, Massey Energy and its subsidiaries continue to violate the CWA,” the lawsuit said.

The federal action was filed Thursday in Charleston. It comes after the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration levied $1.5 million in fines against Massey last month. Those penalties are for 25 violations stemming from a fire at the company’s Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine in Logan County that killed two miners.

The January 2006 fire remains the subject of a federal criminal probe. West Virginia regulators have fined the company $70,000 over Aracoma violations, while the miners’ widows have sued Massey, several subsidiaries and President, CEO and Chairman Don Blankenship.

Blankenship and other Massey officials could not be reached for comment late Friday.

Prosecutors cite monitoring reports filed with West Virginia and Kentucky between January 2000 and March 2006, showing 4,100 violations of permitted average monthly or maximum daily discharge limits. West Virginia reported another 533 permit limit violations from April through December 2006, the lawsuit said.

West Virginia inspectors documented 534 of the violations during January 2000 to March 2006 time frame, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit also draws from 255 violations that allegedly occurred in the course of 1,943 violations of federal mining regulations.

The lawsuit threatens civil penalties against Elk Run Coal Co., Sidney Coal Co., Martin County Coal Co., Independence Coal Co., Omar Mining Co., Bandmill Coal Corp. and Marfork Coal Co.

Massey operates 19 mining complexes in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. The company is the fourth-largest coal producer by revenue in the United States.