On Monday, Judge David Faber found Bluestone Coal Corporation liable for 1,904 days of violations of its discharge permit at the Red Fox Surface Mine. All of the violations related to excessive discharges of selenium. Bluestone’s defense, rejected for a second time by Judge Faber, was that the existence of a consent decree precluded the separate action for enforcement of the permit. However, the permit and its specific discharge limit for selenium only came into effect after the entry of the consent decree.
Aside from the legal niceties of the law of diligent prosecution, to accumulate 1,904 days of violation after having entered into a consent decree certainly suggests a less than vigorous effort by Bluestone Coal to come into compliance with the CWA. What really made this decision newsworthy, however, was that Bluestone Coal’s President is none other than Jim Justice, the Governor of West Virginia. (And don’t ask me how it is that Governor Justice remains President of Bluestone Coal; all I know is that both the Governor’s web site and Dun & Bradstreet both seem to think that such is the case.)
For some strange reason, while the Governor’s web page highlights all the great things he’s done for his state, it does not mention poisoning the state’s waters through the discharge of excess selenium.
I’m not sure that this decision would have prompted a post from me, had it not been for the recent death of the great John Prine, who wrote these immortal words:
Then the coal company came with the world’s largest shovel
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.