Massey faces water lawsuit

John O'Brien Apr. 28, 2010, 1:00pm

Massey CEO Don Blankenship

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - Four environmental groups are suing five subsidiaries of Massey Energy, the company that owns the Raleigh County mine where 29 miners recently lost their lives, over alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.

The lawsuit was filed by the Sierra Club, which calls itself the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the country. The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and Coal River Mountain Watch are also plaintiffs in the case, filed Tuesday in West Virginia federal court.

The subsidiaries are alleged to have discharged aluminum, suspended solids and iron. The lawsuit says from April 10, 2008-Dec. 31, 2009, the defendants have accrued at least 3,307 violations.

"Plaintiffs' members suffer injuries to their aesthetic, recreational, environmental and/or economic interests as a result of Defendants' unlawful discharges of pollutants," the complaint alleges.

"Plaintiffs' members fish, swim, observe wildlife, and otherwise use the waters affected by Defendants' discharges and are harmed by the high levels of pollutants that Defendants are discharging in violation of their permits.

"Plaintiffs' members refrain from swimming, wading, fishing, and/or engaging in other activities in and around the streams affected by Defendants' discharges to avoid exposure to pollutants."

The defendant companies are Elk Run Coal Co., Independence Coal Co., Marfork Coal Co., Peerless Eagle Coal Co. and Power Mountain Coal Co.

Massey told The Associated Press that its compliance rate with Clean Water Act requirements is more than 99 percent.

"The lawsuit lacks merit," spokesman Jeff Gillenwater said, according to the report. "Massey offered to meet with these groups -- who are opposed to coal mining generally -- to discuss their concerns, but these groups chose to file a lawsuit instead."

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