Selenium contamination risk at Alpha's MTR sites
In February 2013, a Rainforest Action Network Coal Risk Update warned of Alpha Natural Resources's exposure to litigation risk from selenium contamination at its MTR sites. The report noted that Alpha's violation history exposed it to significant financial risks from litigation,
regulatory enforcement, and the immense cost of installing selenium filtering equipment at mine outfalls.
Since the report's publication, six additional selenium contamination lawsuits have been filed against Alpha by citizens and environmental groups, in addition to four similar lawsuits filed prior to 2013. In March 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice reached a settlement with Alpha over water contamination at 79 mine sites, which included several MTR mines.
As part of the settlement, Alpha agreed to pay a $27.5 million penalty-the largest ever issued by the EPA for Clean Water Act-related pollution discharge violations-and agreed to spend $200 million to remediate pollution at its mine sites. The company's legal woes over water pollution continued in April 2014, when a federal judge ruled in favour of environmental groups in one of the selenium contamination lawsuits against the company.