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U.S. AND WEST VIRGINIA SETTLE CLEAN WATER ACT LAWSUIT AGAINST COASTAL COAL CO. - Company to Pay $100,000, Treat Acid Mine Drainage at Preston County Mines

Release Date: 9/28/1998
Contact Information: Bonnie Lomax (215) 814-5542 September 28, 1998

CLARKSBURG, W. Va. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Justice Department and the West Virginia Division of  Environmental Protection (WVDEP) have settled a dispute against Coastal Coal Co. and Coastal Coal Co. LLC - West Virginia for water pollution violations at the T&T Mines in Preston County, W. Va.  Since 1994, the Preston County mine site has discharged millions of gallons of acid mine drainage to a tributary of the Cheat River.  

In a proposed consent decree, Coastal Coal has agreed to contribute $1.7 million to treat acid mine drainage, and pay a $100,000 penalty to the United States.  

EPA Regional Administrator W. Michael McCabe praised the cooperation of federal, state and company officials in reaching the agreement.  “Acid mine drainage is one of the biggest insults to the West Virginia environment, affecting nearly 550 miles of the state’s waterways.  Today’s settlement is a big step in the continuing battle against this scourge,” McCabe said.  

“This agreement means cleaner water and healthier communities for the citizens of West Virginia,” said Lois Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources at the Justice Department.  “I am proud of this agreement, and of the work that will be done to clean up and reduce acid mine drainage in Preston County.”  She also acknowledged Coastal Coal’s cooperation in working with state and federal officials in developing the remediation plan.  

“This has been a longstanding issue that we have been trying to arrest and clean up,” said WVDEP Director Michael P. Miano.  
A complaint, filed simultaneously with the proposed settlement, alleges that Kingwood Coal Co. (now a division of Coastal Coal Co. LLC - West Virginia) should be held responsible for the mine drainage because of its role in subleasing the mineral rights to T&T Fuels, Inc., the now bankrupt mining company which operated the mine until April 1993.  

T & T Fuels filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1995 following two “blowouts” at the site, in April 1994 and March 1995, which released millions of gallons of untreated acid drainage to nearby streams.  It is estimated that this discharge would continue for 150 to 300 years if left untreated.  Since T&T’s bankruptcy, the state of West Virginia has been treating the discharge, at a monthly cost to the state’s special reclamation fund ranging from $30,000 to $45,000.  

Both federal and state authorities have pursued legal actions against T&T and its former officers, including Paul Thomas who pled guilty in federal court to a criminal violation of the  Clean Water Act.  Last March, Mr. Thomas was ordered to pay $443,400 in restitution to the state and $36,000 monthly payments to cover the state’s treatment costs.  

Under the settlement announced today, Coastal Coal agreed to construct and partially fund a project to end acid mine drainage from the T&T mines.  The project involves injecting treated sludge and other alkaline material into the mine to neutralize the discharges.  Coastal Coal has agreed to fund $1.7 million of the estimated $5.2 million project cost, with the balance to be paid by West Virginia using payments from Mr. Thomas and other state funds.  

FSS Coal Holding Co., the owner of the mineral rights at the T&T mines, has also agreed to pay a $10,000 penalty as part of the settlement  (to be split equally between the United States and West Virginia).  

The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30 day public comment period and final court approval.