Alpha Natural Resources will pay $27.5 million in fines as part of a settlement that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says is “the largest penalty in history” under the water-pollution portion of the federal Clean Water Act. The civil penalty is for nearly 6,300 violations of pollution limits at company sites.
Under the agreement, Alpha also will improve its water treatment practices for 79 active mines and 25 coal processing plants in West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia. According to EPA, that means $200 million will be used “to install and operate wastewater treatment systems and to implement comprehensive, system-wide upgrades to reduce discharges of pollution from coal mines.”
The Justice Department’s Robert Dreher added, “The unprecedented size of the civil penalty in this settlement sends a strong message to others in his industry that such egregious violations of the nation’s Clean Water Act will not be tolerated.”
Alpha spokesman Gene Kitts, meanwhile, said the consent decree “provides a framework for our efforts to become fully compliant with our environmental permits.”
He also pointed out that the company’s compliance rate for 2013 was 99.8 percent.
“That’s a strong record of compliance, particularly considering it’s based on more than 665,000 chances to miss a daily or monthly average limit,” he added. “But our goal is to do even better.”