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Green groups seek judgment for unpaid donation related to coal mine permit

Several environmental groups are appealing to a federal court to seek payment from mine owners ERP Environmental Fund Inc. and the VCLF Land Trust Inc. for an award mandated by the court earlier this year.

In June, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia ruled that those companies did not make donations to Appalachian Headwaters Inc., an environmental group focused on sustainable economic issues in Appalachia, that were required under a prior consent decree after their mines were accused of illegally discharging selenium that exceeded the allowance under their permit. The judge ordered the two companies to pay nearly $2 million to Appalachian Headwaters as a result.

At the time of the complaint, the mines were owned by Patriot Coal Corp., which subsequently filed for bankruptcy and sold many of its assets to Blackhawk Mining LLC and the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, with ERP Environmental assuming obligations.

In documents filed Oct. 18 with the court, Appalachian Headwaters and other environmental groups wrote that they have not seen a penny from either defendant since the court's June decision and alleged that the amount owed has grown to $3 million. The groups are seeking a judgment of nearly $1.1 million, the amount of "arrearage that has accrued since the date of the filing of the first Motion to Enforce," according to the filing.

"Neither defendant nor VCLF made any of the required $150,000 per month payments due on the first of each month from April 2019 through October 2019," the plaintiffs said.