Patriot Coal Agrees To Settle Selenium Pollution Claims

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 19, 2012
Posted on: http://www.hispanicbusiness.com

Patriot Coal Corp. has agreed to pay $7.5 million civil penalty and install pollution treatment systems at some of its West Virginia mining complexes to settle a lawsuit filed by a coalition of environmental groups last year.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Huntington, W.V. in February, alleged that selenium discharges from Patriot mining complexes exceeded limits in the company’s state water permits and the federal Clean Water Act.

Wednesday’s settlement is the latest attempt by Patriot to resolve selenium pollution claims that have dogged the company for years. In September 2010, a federal judge found the company in contempt of court and ordered it to clean up selenium pollution at two mines.

Patriot called Wednesday’s agreement “a strategic response” to the issue.

“We are pleased that this settlement provides a comprehensive framework for Patriot to address selenium across our properties going forward,” Richard M. Whiting, Patriot’s chief executive said in a statement.

The company, which on Friday announced plans to idle a company-owned mine and several contractor-operated mines in response to weaker demand for coal used in steelmaking, didn’t say how much it would cost to develop and install the selenium treatment systems.

In a November regulatory filing, Patriot said it had a $143 million liability on its balance sheet to address selenium discharges.

Groups that sued Patriot include the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and the Sierra Club — the same groups that forced a $2 million selenium pollution settlement with Arch Coal Inc.

The 59-page settlement with Patriot is subject to a public comment period and must be approved by the court before its implemented.

The $7.5 million in penalties will be paid to the federal government and West Virginia Land Trust for watershed preservation projects.

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