US coal miner to pay largest-ever water pollution penalty

Coal miner Alpha Natural Resources will have to spend $200 million on installations and upgrades and pay a record-breaking $27 million fine as per a legal settlement reached with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA announced on Wednesday that Alpha Natural Resources – one of the country's largest coal miners – Alpha Appalchian Holdings (formerly Massey Energy), and 66 subsidiaries have agreed to spend about $200 million on wastewater treatment systems and upgrades to reduce pollution from coal mines in Appalachia.

The companies will also pay a fine of $27.5 million for more than 6,000 permit violations.

"By requiring reforms and a robust compliance program, we are helping to ensure coal mining in Appalachia follows environmental laws that protect public health," an EPA representative said in a statement.

An Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said the civil penalty of "unprecedented size" will send a "strong deterrent message to others in this industry that such egregious violations of the nation's Clean Water Act will not be tolerated."

The EPA estimates that the upgrades required by the settlement will "educe discharges of total dissolved solids by over 36 million pounds each year, and will cut metals and other pollutants by approximately nine million pounds per year."