Written by: Dan Radmacher
December 21, 2011
Appalachian Mountain Advocates has reached another settlement in a case involving selenium pollution from a mountaintop removal mine that will ensure the enormous cost of treating polluted run-off won’t fall on taxpayers. We brought this case on behalf of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Coal River Mountain Watch and the Sierra Club.
The agreement with Alpha covers its Twilight and Red Cedar operations in Boone County and the Kanawha Division along the Fayette-Kanawha border, which were former Massey Energy operations before Alpha bought the company.
Under the agreement, Alpha will treat the selenium pollution at these mines, which will cost the company around $50 million.
Selenium is a bioaccumulative toxin able to cause catastrophic ecological effects at extremely low levels. Once selenium is exposed by mining, it becomes a perpetual, expensive problem. (Read more about selenium here.)
In addition to the treatment, Alpha also agreed to pay $450,000 in civil penalties to the federal government and contribute $4 million to the West Virginia Land Trust to conserve land near rivers and streams in the affected watersheds. In all, this settlement and others like it have resulted in around $9 million in funding for the land trust and for the Land Use and Sustainable Development Clinic at West Virginia University’s College of Law.