Patriot Coal tries, but fails, to avoid $50 million mine cleanup in West Virginia

Patriot Coal and West Virginia environmental regulators have reached an agreement in which the company will set aside more than $50 million to cover cleanup costs at its former mine sites in the state.

Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Randy Huffman says without the deal, Patriot could have walked away from its reclamation obligations and left that work to the state.

Note from Storm: For over a century, the standard model for mining companies in the United States has been to declare bankruptcy when the mine runs out. This legally freeing themselves of any obligation to restore the land to its natural state, which helps prevent toxic leakage (such as acid from coal mines) from killing mountain streams and contaminating the drinking water of local communities. In other words, the company gets to make vast profits from natural resources that belong to the public, and then leaves the public with the cleanup bill. They like to call this “free enterprise”, but which they apparently mean free resources, free of moral responsibility.

So, I’m very happy to see that the West Virginia government is finally growing some cojones, and going after these parasitic corporations. The next step will be to repeal the General Mining Act of 1872, which was written by mining companies, and which has been allowing this behavior, which would be criminal acts without that irresponsible law.

[Photo of acid mine drainage by Carol Stoker, NASA]

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