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News Releases from Region 03

Southern Coal Corporation Agrees to Make System-Wide Upgrades to Reduce Water Pollution from Mining Operations

Contact Information: 
David Sternberg (sternberg.david@epa.gov)
(215) 814-5548

PHILADELPHIA (September 30, 2016) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)   today announced a settlement with Southern Coal Corporation and 26 affiliates (Southern Coal Corporation) requiring the companies to make comprehensive upgrades to their coal mining and processing operations to prevent discharges of polluted wastewater from their mines in the Appalachian region. The estimated cost of these measures is approximately $5 million. The companies will also pay a $900,000 civil penalty, divided among the federal government and the four state co-plaintiffs, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

The settlement resolves alleged violations of state-issued Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits by discharging various pollutants in exceedance of permit limits at the companies' mining and processing operations in Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. In addition, there were numerous violations of the companies’ legal responsibilities to sample their discharges to rivers and streams required by their NPDES permits. Under the settlement, Southern Coal Corporation must implement a series of measures to ensure compliance and prevent future Clean Water Act violations at their coal mining operations, including:

  • Implementing a company-wide, EPA-approved environmental management system;

  • Maintaining a centralized data management system to track audit results, violations, water sampling data and compliance efforts;

  • Constructing a publicly accessible website for posting documents such as NPDES permits, discharge monitoring reports, water sampling data, effluent violation information, notices of violations and compliance orders;

  • Paying escalating stipulated penalties if Clean Water Act permit violations continue to occur; and

  • Providing for a letter of credit and a standby trust and trustee to ensure that there is sufficient money and a mechanism to achieve compliance with the consent decree and the Clean Water Act, if Southern Coal Company fails to perform.

The government complaint filed concurrently with the consent decree alleged that over the last five years, Southern Coal Corporation has violated NPDES discharge limits for pollutants including iron, total suspended solids, aluminum, pH and manganese in their state-issued permits. The complaint also alleged that Southern Coal Corporation failed to submit complete and timely discharge monitoring reports, made unauthorized discharges, and failed to respond to EPA requests for information.

The proposed consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.

Information about submitting a public comment is available at:


For more information on this settlement and to read the consent decree, go to: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/southern-coal-corporation-global-clean-water-settlement