ALPHA Natural Resources’ Nicewonder Contracting and White Flame Energy divisions have been ordered to pay $950,000 by a West Virginia circuit court judge for property damages landowners said was caused by highway construction.
Mingo County Circuit Court judge Michael Thornsbury said July 1 that the two subsidiaries trespassed, created a nuisance and were negligent to 45 plaintiffs when they mined areas that were subsequently used to build part of the King Coal Highway on Mate Creek and Pigeon Creek.
In the suit, the group said that a flood that occurred May 9, 2009, and damaged property was directly caused by the road construction.
As a result, the plaintiffs received various judgments ranging from $1050 to $100,000, according to the Williamson Daily Mail.
Ashby-Tucker Environmental’s D Scott Simonton wrote a report, the paper said, indicating historically unusual flood damage in the area in his visits just after the event.
“Scouring of flow channels was extreme, and it was easy to follow these channels to the construction of the King Coal Highway and other surface disturbance areas,” he said in the report, adding that runoff and sediment controls that were not properly built increased discharge and the scope of the flooding.
In its response to ILN, Alpha spokesman Ted Pile did not indicate if the producer planned to appeal.
“[W]hile we respect the jury’s verdict and appreciate the hard work of the jurors and court staff who were involved in this lengthy trial, we were disappointed to the extent Alpha affiliates were found to be responsible for causing flood-related damages, which we vigorously deny,” he said.
“However, we believe the amount of damages awarded by the jury – a fraction of what their attorney argued for at trial – supports our decision to have the case tried to reach a verdict.”
He noted that the May 2009 flooding that resulted from seven inches of heavy rains over one week was inspected by officials from the environmental enforcement group of West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and found to be in compliance with all storm water regulations. No violations were issued at that time.
“There’s no question that county residents were deeply affected by the floods, and our people pitched in with earth moving equipment and more than 15,000 manhours to help out, rebuild roads and clean up the area,” he said.
“It was long days, nights and weekends for the NCI employees, but it was the right thing to do.”