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Coal billionaire Justice agrees to pay $900,000 penalty for polluting rivers, largely in Kentucky

Southern Coal billionaire owner Jim Justice, the Democratic nominee for governor of West Virginia, has agreed to pay a $900,000 civil penalty to settle allegations that his company’s mining operations “illegally polluted Appalachian rivers and streams,” Jeff Sturgeon reports for The Roanoke Times.

Federal officials said they documented 23,693 violations, largely in Kentucky (nearly 13,000) and Virginia (8,800).

Jim Justice (Roanoake Times Photo via Rural Blog)

Jim Justice (Roanoake Times Photo via Rural Blog)

The federal lawsuit, “co-signed by Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia regulators, alleges that the company’s discharges ‘for iron, total suspended solids, aluminum, pH and manganese’ placed its facilities’ operations out of compliance with state permits and laws at various times between 2009 and 2014,” Sturgeon writes.

“Southern Coal’s West Virginia operations are included in the settlement, though that state isn’t a plaintiff.”

The settlement “outlines compliance steps to include increased employee training, third-party audits of company facilities and the posting of water quality test results to a public website,” Sturgeon writes.

“Those measures, which the government said would reduce the amount of pollutant the company discharges by 5 million pounds a year, could cost an additional $4.5 million.”

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.

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