Citizen Groups Not Impressed by Federal EPA Settlement with Alpha Natural Resources After WV and NC Spills, Groups Urge Pro-Active Enforcement of Clean Water Protections
Charleston, WV – Today, community and conservation groups signaled skepticism over a proposed multi-million dollar settlement between the Environmental Protection Agency and Alpha Natural Resources over the firm’s inability to meet key clean water protections. With two major spills coming from coal related industries in the last two months the groups argue that now is the time to start taking real, preventative steps in the work to curb coal’s pollution of American waterways. The settlement comes after Alpha failed to meet Clean Water Act guidelines regarding water pollution from mountaintop removal coal mines in West Virginia.
In the wake of today’s settlement the following statements were issued by allied organizations working to ensure strong, pro-active clean water protections:
"While it's important that Alpha pays for its violations, EPA is still failing at its most important job; ensuring pollution like this doesn't happen in the first place," said Mary Anne Hitt, Director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "If we've learned anything from the coal chemical spill in West Virginia and the coal ash spill in North Carolina it's that strong and pro-active up front enforcement of our clean water protections is paramount. Levying fines after the fact does nothing for the communities and waterways already harmed."
"Once again, the federal government has taken action because the W.Va. Dept. of Environmental Protection failed to enforce the law,” said Vernon Haltom, Executive Director of Coal River Mountain Watch. “We've recently experienced the devastation of 300,000 residents' water supply as a result of DEP's failure to take action. Unfortunately, regulators will continue to grant permits to coal companies that are in violation of their existing permits. Clearly, mountaintop removal operations cannot comply with the law, and this practice needs to end now."
"With a child, a slap on the wrist teaches a lesson, with Alpha the slaps, even big monetary fines, barely register" said Jim Sconyers of the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. "To them, it's just one more cost of doing business, and they can afford it. The only lesson they'll respect is if EPA and the WV Department of Environmental Protection refuse to give them permits that they feel free to ignore."
“There is no excuse for companies that know the law and have permits to pollute within certain limits to violate those limits over and over again,” said Cindy Rank of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy. “It’s unconscionable for regulatory agencies to let those companies slide for so long that a large settlement – though possibly no more than a slap on the wrist in the larger scheme of things – merits any amount of praise or rejoicing. Our waters are our life blood and we all deserve better.”
“This solution didn’t work seven years ago, when EPA and the Department of Justice took action to stop Massey Energy’s culture of contaminating streams,” said Dianne Bady of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. “Now, under Alpha, these problems continue and the government's solution is the same: fines and a plan to make individual mines better - which didn't stop the problems last time. Considering that Alpha is a four billion dollar company, this fine is just another acceptable cost of doing business. It is unacceptable that regulatory agencies allow companies like Alpha to expand their mountaintop removal operations without forcing an end to illegal pollution at their existing mines. These fines are no substitute for allowing companies to continue to illegally pollute.”