Mountaintop removal for coal causes more long-term environmental problems than it solves in short-term coal production; so it is always a hopeful sign that sanity is prevailing in the country when a big polluter can be stopped. Public Justice just announced that the so-called “Patriot Coal” company – the second largest producer of surface-mined coal in West Virginia –has just agreed to end its mountaintop removal mining.
Public Justice reports that though it did not directly negotiate this agreement, it contributed enormously to the result through litigation that forced Patriot to install expensive pollution control equipment to reduce toxic selenium discharges at its Apogee mine in West Virginia. That and similar litigation at other Patriot mines forced the big polluter to internalize the enormous environmental costs of its mining operations. Consequently, Patriot filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2012 and admitted the costs of treating its contaminated mine water would exceed $400 million.
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Public Justice wrote: “Along with its commitment to end large scale surface mining in the region, Patriot’s CEO acknowledged its human and environmental costs, telling the judge overseeing the agreement that ‘Patriot Coal recognizes that our mining operations impact the communities in which we operate in significant ways.'”
Public Justice, which has worked for more than a decade to limit mountaintop removal mining, announced that the court’s ruling validates Public Justice’s view that mining companies forced to pay the real costs of mountaintop removal will find their methods economically untenable. Public Justice’s co-counsel in the Apogee case, Joe Lovett at Appalachian Mountain Advocates, negotiated the deal with Patriot.
Matthews & Asociates applauds Public Justice and Joe Lovett for helping save West Virginia and America from further horrors of the unconscionably destructive method of mountaintop removal mining.