Written by Your 5News Team
Last updated on November 15, 2012 @ 7:19PM
Created on November 15, 2012 @ 2:45PM
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - Bankrupt Patriot Coal will become the first U.S. operator to stop large-scale mountaintop removal mining in Central Appalachia under a historic agreement with three environmental groups.
The deal was struck Thursday and presented to a federal judge in Huntington.
It stems from pollution lawsuits filed by the Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.
St. Louis-based Patriot must resolve litigation during its bankruptcy proceedings.
It will idle some equipment immediately, phasing out large-scale strip mining. Going forward, it agrees to do only small-scale surface mining near planned or existing underground operations.
In exchange, it gets more time to install selenium treatment systems at several mines.
The agreement caps how much coal Patriot can produce from surface mines and requires it to withdraw two valley-fill permit applications.
More Information: Here’s the full statement read in federal court today by Patriot Coal CEO Ben Hatfield about his company’s decision to phase out mountaintop removal coal mining:
Patriot Coal has concluded that the continuation or expansion of surface mining, particularly large scale surface mining of the type common in central Appalachia, is not in its long term interests. Today’s proposed settlement commits Patriot Coal to phase out and permanently exit large scale surface mining and transition our business primarily toward underground mining and related small scale surface mining.
Patriot Coal recognizes that our mining operations impact the communities in which we operate in significant ways, and we are committed to maximizing the benefits of this agreement for our stakeholders, including our employees and neighbors. We believe the proposed settlement will result in a reduction of our environmental footprint.
This settlement is consistent with Patriot Coal’s business plan to focus capital on expanding higher margin metallurgical coal production and limiting thermal coal investments to selective opportunities where geologic and regulatory risks are minimized.
Patriot Coal urges the Court to approve the settlement because it strengthens the Company’s ability to continue operating with our nearly 4000 employees, and significantly increases the likelihood that we will emerge from the chapter 11 process as a viable business, able to satisfy our environmental and other obligations.
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