Environmental groups accuse multiple mining sites of violating federal regulations

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Allegations of “egregious” violations of the federal Clean Water Act and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act could be included in forthcoming lawsuits against operators of more than a dozen facilities in West Virginia and other states.

Several environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, have given the owners of those sites 60 days to come into compliance to avoid federal case filings.

Notices of “intent to sue” have gone out to the following companies: Murray Energy, Southeastern Land, Lexington Coal, Bluestone Coal and the Justice Group, American Bituminous Power Partners, Mepco, Black Castle, Eagle Natrium and Consol.

The named problem sites included mines, preparation and processing facilities, a power plant and a chloride plant that made up this list:

– Marshall County Mine/Conner Run Impoundment,
– Arkwright Mine #1,
– Marion County Mine,
– Harrison County Mine,
– Ike Fork #2 Surface Mine,
– Taywood West Surface Mine,
– Peg Fork Surface Mine,
– Peachorchard Surface Mine No. 5,
– Low Gap Surface Mine #2,
– No. 10 Mine,
– Red Fox Surface Mine,
– Grant Town Power Plant,
– Dana Prime #1 Deep Mine,
– Laxare East Surface Mine,
– Eagle Natrium,
– Renton,
– Robena.

“I think one takeaway from this recent round of notice letters is that there are pollution problems across all parts of West Virginia and from all sorts of facilities that are associated with the coal industry,” said Peter Morgan, a senior attorney at the Sierra Club.

Similar notifications about pending lawsuits have also been provided to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. Morgan said the data noted in the notice letters were known among state and federal regulators.

“The companies have been providing this information to the regulators,” he said. “For the most part, the regulators have been looking the other way and allowing this pollution to continue.”

Involved in the effort along with the Sierra Club were the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and Appalachian Voices.

Appalachian Mountain Advocates and Public Justice are representing the organizations.

“This chronic and widespread problem of unfettered illegal activity has already stacked up too much harm to our waters,” said Angie Rosser, executive director for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, in a statement.

“We simply can’t stand by and watch coal companies get a free pass while our streams, and the residents that depend on them, pay the price. Something has to change.”

Counsel for Murray Energy released the following statement to MetroNews: “We have not received any of the referenced ‘intent to sue’ letters so any comment from us would be premature, and furthermore, we do not comment on threatened or pending litigation.”

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