Coal already has a bad name in Washington, D.C.
The whole industry got another black eye this week when Alpha Natural Resources Inc., one of the country’s largest coal producers, agreed to pay a $27.5 million fine and invest $200 million to reduce illegal water pollution in five states, including West Virginia.
This is the largest fine ever imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency for violation of water pollution permits and was filed Wednesday in federal court. The discharges occurred at mines and coal plants in West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia.
The EPA contends that between 2006 and last year, the company and its subsidiaries violated permits more than 6,000 times and in some cases discharged heavy metals and other harmful chemicals directly into rivers, streams and tributaries. According to The Associated Press, which received a copy of the settlement before it was filed earlier this week, in some cases, the level of chemicals released into the state’s waterways were 35 times greater than what the company was permitted to do.
According to the settlement, Alpha will invest what they say will be about $200 million into building better wastewater treatment systems at more than 100 facilities in the five affected states. Alpha’s vice president for environmental affairs, Gene Kitts, told the AP that the Virginia-based company is in compliance with the Clean Water Act 99.8 percent of the time.
We’re just not sure that’s good enough. Considering the volume of Alpha’s production of coal, that “less than 1 percent” can not only have a dramatic impact on the environment, but on the reputation of the coal industry.
What’s worse is that the company, in some cases, reported the violations to the states where they occurred and the states just didn’t have the resources to follow up.
With half of the fine going to the federal government and half of the fine going to West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, there will be some resources to invest in better regulation of the permits on a statewide level.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has already promised that West Virginia’s share, $8.9 million, will be spent on enforcement of pollution laws.
“We still appreciate coal mining jobs and the investments here in West Virginia, but they’ve got to be responsible,” Tomblin said.
We agree. In fact, we couldn’t agree more.
The coal industry is already fighting for its life under an administration set to stop the coal-fired generation of electricity by setting unattainable air-quality standards. This settlement, on the heels of another coal-related spill in the Elk River, only gives the administration and its EPA more ammunition.
Companies need to take every precaution to avoid harming the environment around them, violating laws and issued permits and to promote and develop greener initiatives in the communities where they are located. And the state absolutely must do a better job at enforcing the laws and dealing with those companies that violate them.
“Our goal is to do even better, and the (settlement) provides an opportunity to proactively focus on improving the less than 1 percent of the time that permits are exceeded,” Alpha’s Kitts told The AP this week.
We certainly hope so. And if that’s the case, we hope other coal companies, large and small, will use the same proactive measures moving forward.
Coal already has a bad name in Washington, D.C.
Korean War veterans are deserving of a memorial
NEEDED: A total of $10,000 for the Korean War Memorial this year.
And a good man has been placed in charge of the funding. Charlie Reese, former president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, is now director of the Marion County Development Office. His task was to make a recommendation as to what steps are necessary to keep the project moving.
Roll up your sleeves, give blood and you can save lives
It takes up to 100 units of blood to save the life of someone who sustains life-threatening injuries in a vehicle accident.
We’re hoping that the number of people who come to Fairmont Senior High School on Friday for and American Red Cross blood drive will exceed that amount.
Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely
The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.
- Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer
Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life
Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.
COLUMN: Are we people watchers or people judgers?
Let me tell you about my little friend Robby. Well, actually, it’s more about his family and especially his mom. I didn’t get her name. I heard Robby’s name quite a bit, though, during a trip home from Birmingham, Alabama.
I noticed the family in the Birmingham airport immediately. They were just the kind of family you’d notice.
Relish the rich bounty of state’s diverse, unique food traditions
This week, a group of federal officials on a three-day culinary tour of the state visited the Greenbrier Valley to find out what most of us here already know — we have a rich food tradition in West Virginia.
The group was made up of officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Soup Opera in need of your support again this time of year
It’s happening again.
It usually always happens about this time each year. Sometimes it’s a little earlier and sometimes a little later.
But Soup Opera executive director Shelia Tennant knows it will come — usually in July. And she’s never that surprised about it.
County honors men who gave all in helping their community
The next time you’re driving in the Rivesville area, you might notice new signs on two of the area’s bridges.
Those signs, which bear the names of Alex Angelino and Denzil O. Lockard, were unveiled Saturday in honor of the men whose names they display, two men who died while serving their communities.
The bridge on U.S. 19 over Paw Paw Creek was named to honor Lockard, while the bridge on U.S. 19 over Pharaoh Run Creek was named to honor Angelino. Lockard, a former Rivesville police chief, died in 1958 at the age of 48 while directing traffic. Angelino, a Rivesville firefighter, died at the age of 43 of a heart attack while fighting a fire in 1966.
State must learn to keep costs down and perform more efficiently on less
The West Virginia state government began its budget year last Tuesday with a small surplus of $40 million — less than 1 percent of its annual tax revenues — thanks only to dipping into its savings.
Let’s not do that again.
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- Korean War veterans are deserving of a memorial