Mountaintop removal is probably the most destructive way to dig coal out of the ground. The peaks of mountains across the Appalachians have been blasted to reach coal seams, and the debris dumped where else? in nearby valleys, where it obliterates streams and anything that lived there.
Now, the nation's fourth-largest coal producer, Massey Energy Co., will pay a record $20 million fine to settle the Environmental Protection Agency's charges that its dumping wreaked havoc in three states over the course of seven years, according to the Los Angeles Times. The $2.6 billion company will also pay $10 million to help clean up the aptly named Little Coal River watershed.
Over two years, the mine dumped more rock, toxic heavy metals and acid into West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky streams than it ought to have, exceeding its permit by 10 times, according to the Times.
It's the largest Clean Water Act settlement ever recorded, but given the egregiousness of the environmental damage, some say the settlement could have been greater. The EPA's lawsuit could have claimed as much as $1 billion five times the agreed-to settlement, according to the Times.
Given that the Army Corps of Engineers has set rules making it easier to conduct mountaintop removal mining, the likelihood of increased damage to the region's streams is great.
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