Nine Alpha mines targeted in environmental suit

A GROUP of environmentalists headed by the Sierra Club plan to take US coal miner Alpha Natural Resources to court over nine West Virginia operations they claim are violating the federal Clean Water Act as well as surface mining regulations.
Nine Alpha mines targeted in environmental suit Nine Alpha mines targeted in environmental suit Nine Alpha mines targeted in environmental suit Nine Alpha mines targeted in environmental suit Nine Alpha mines targeted in environmental suit

Alpha Natural Resources corporate headquarters.

Donna Schmidt

The Sierra Club, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy said they were taking action to halt pollution at the operations including the Whitman No 2 surface mine, Camp Branch, the Tower Mountain surface mine, the Freeze Fork surface mine, the Twilight surface mine, Lady Dunn preparation plant, Hughes Creek surface mine, Stockton mine, and Fourmile Fork surface mine.

“The mines, located in Logan, McDowell, Boone, and Kanawha counties, all violate key protections in the Clean Water Act and surface mining laws regarding selenium pollution from mountaintop removal or traditional mines and associated facilities.”

The environmentalists want Alpha to install the appropriate protections at the facilities to improve waterway quality in the state.

“Is widespread and ongoing toxic pollution of our streams what Alpha means by ‘Running Right’?,” West Virginia Sierra Club chair Jim Sconyers asked.

“Alpha needs to stop this, and to stop making the people and streams pay the price for Alpha's toxic coal mining.”

According to the groups, Alpha is the largest mountaintop removal mining company in the US and responsible for about 25% of coal production from those mines.

The Sierra Club, the OVEC and the WVHC confirmed they settled with Alpha last December regarding the company’s selenium pollution at three facilities. Under the terms of that settlement the producer has to treat selenium pollution at an estimated construction cost of more than $US50 million.

Alpha also was ordered to pay additional penalties of $4.5 million.

The pollution at these nine sites, the groups said, had been discovered since that agreement was made.

“The evidence continues to mount that the long-term legacy of streams polluted by harmful levels of selenium from these and other mines has become as costly and devastating as the thousands of miles of streams already destroyed by acid mine drainage,” West Virginia Highlands Conservancy’s Cindy Rank said.

“Permits must not be granted where mining will only further damage the health of our water and those residents now and in the future who depend on that water.”

The groups are being represented by Derek Teaney and Joe Lovett of Appalachian Mountain Advocates.

An ILN request for comment from Alpha Natural Resources was not returned by press time.