Latest Patriot Coal selenium settlement up for comment

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the Hobet Mining LLC and Catenary Coal Co. LLC units of Patriot Coal have settled issues related to selenium pollution at several coal mine sites in southern West Virginia and the DEP is taking comments on the settlement until March 29.

This settlement resolves enforcement actions pending in the Boone County Circuit Court. The DEP filed suit in 2007 against Hobet Mining in that court over selenium discharges under four permits. A settlement was then worked out in 2008, with a revision to that settlement approved in 2009 to add two other permits.

Then in February 2011, environmental groups sued Hobet, Catenary Coal and Apogee Coal Co. LLC, another Patriot Coal subsidiary, in federal court over these same issues. That lawsuit resulted in a settlement late last year, which was approved by the federal judge on Jan. 9. What is now up for comment is a change in the prior Boone County lawsuit settlement to reflect the federal settlement.

The changes cover various deadlines and parameters to clean up over the next several years the selenium-laden water run-off from various mine sites.

Patriot Coal has been in Chapter 11 protection since July 2012, with its case currently pending at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Patriot said about this matter in its Oct. 30, 2012, Form 10-Q quarterly financial report: “In 2007, Hobet Mining, LLC (Hobet), one of our subsidiaries, was sued for exceedances of effluent limits contained in four of its NPDES permits in state court in Boone County, West Virginia by the WVDEP. We refer to this case as the Hobet WVDEP Action. The Hobet WVDEP Action was resolved by a settlement and consent order entered in the Boone County Circuit Court on September 5, 2008. The settlement required us, among other things, to complete supplemental environmental projects, to gradually reduce selenium discharges from our Hobet Job 21 surface mine, to achieve full compliance with our NPDES permits by April 2010 and to study potential treatment alternatives for selenium.”

The Form 10-Q added: “On October 8, 2009, a motion to enter a modified settlement and consent order in the Hobet WVDEP Action was submitted to the Boone County Circuit Court. This motion to modify the settlement and consent order was jointly filed by Patriot and the WVDEP. On December 3, 2009, the Boone County Circuit Court approved and entered a modified settlement and consent order (the December 2009 Consent Order) to, among other things, extend coverage of the September 5, 2008 settlement and consent order to two additional permits and extend the date to achieve full compliance with our NPDES permits from April 2010 to July 2012. One of the two additional permits subject to such extension, Hobet Surface Mine No. 22, was subsequently addressed in the September 1, 2010 U.S. District Court Ruling, as further discussed below. In May 2012, a draft modification to the December 2009 Consent Order in the Hobet WVDEP Action was submitted to the Boone County Circuit Court. WVDEP and Hobet jointly requested an extension of the July 2012 compliance date while further refinements to the consent decree were discussed. The Boone County Circuit Court has extended the compliance date while those discussions are ongoing.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.