By Elizabeth E. Payne
On Sept. 30, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement resolving thousands of pollution violations against Southern Coal Corporation and 26 affiliated coal mining companies with operations in Appalachia.
Southern Coal Corp. and its affiliates are owned by Jim Justice, who was elected governor of West Virginia on Nov. 8.
The $5 million settlement resolves Clean Water Act violations filed in Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia and established measures to better ensure that the companies follow the law in the future. Four of the states were co-plaintiffs in the case. West Virginia was not.
“Discharging pollution from coal mining into waterways is a serious threat to clean water, and that’s why EPA stepped in on behalf of communities across Appalachia,” said Cynthia Giles of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance said in a statement.
According to an investigation by National Public Radio in 2014, Justice also owes $15 million in unpaid mine safety violations and taxes. “Our analysis of federal data shows that Justice is now the nation’s top mine safety delinquent,” NPR reports.