Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman/OVEC
Today, Patriot Coal announced it has agreed to get out of the mountaintop removal business – permanently. This agreement represents an enormous victory in Appalachian Mountain Advocates’ 14-year battle against mountaintop removal mining.
Our ongoing actions against Patriot to ensure that it could not shirk its responsibility to clean up the water pollution caused by its operations played a vital role in that decision. Early this year, we reached a landmark settlement with the company in which it agreed to clean up toxic selenium pollution at multiple outfalls at three major mining complexes.
According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it will cost Patriot $440 million to clean up the pollution in this agreement and another action we prevailed in earlier. That cost otherwise could have fallen on the taxpayers of West Virginia.
Patriot is currently the second largest surface mining company in West Virginia. Because of the agreement we reached with the company, it will no longer be able to engage in mountaintop removal mining or other large-scale surface mining once its current permits run out. In addition, the company agreed to an unprecedented permanent cap on surface-mining tonnage. Any new small-scale surface mining it engages in must be associated with an underground mine. Additionally, even that small-scale mining will come to an end when its current leases expire. After that, the only surface mining the company will conduct will be that directly related to the reclamation of underground coal mine refuse areas.
The company will retire its draglines and focus on underground mining only.
In a statement, the company, which is currently going through reorganization in federal bankruptcy court, said it had come to the decision that engaging in surface mining “was no longer in its long-term interest” and it acknowledged the “significant” impact of its mountaintop removal minings on local communities.
We believe any mining company that actually has to pay the costs to clean up the environmental destruction caused by mountaintop removal mining will realize that this destructive method of mining doesn’t make environmental or economic sense. We will continue to work to ensure that every mining company does have to pay those costs.
Read Patriot CEO Ben Hatfield’s statement here.