US judge rules Alpha Natural coal mines polluted streams

US judge rules Alpha Natural coal mines polluted streams

Aerial view of a coal mine in West Virginia.

A federal judge has ruled that two mines owned by the second-largest U.S. coal producer Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE:ANR) in southern West Virginia illegally polluted streams.

U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers found that the Elk Run and Alex Energy mountaintop mines had discharged highly polluted waste into two streams — Laurel Creek and Robinson Fork — harming aquatic life.

“In multiple ways, the chemical and the biological components of the aquatic ecosystems found in Laurel Creek and Robinson Fork have been significantly adversely affected by the defendants’ discharges,” Chambers said in his ruling, as quoted by Bloomberg.

This is the first time a federal court verdict acknowledges damage from high conductivity discharges, adding that high levels of conductivity —the ability of water to transfer electricity— is scientifically proven to be harmful for aquatic life.

Alpha Natural said it would appeal the ruling and expects “to see it reversed.”

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