Groups sue Millennium over alleged Clean Water Act violations

August 9, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Water Quality

Vancouver and Longview citizens groups announced Tuesday they will sue the owner of a proposed coal dock in West Longview, contending that Millennium Bulk Terminals is violating the federal Clean Water Act by handling coal without a permit.

An attorney representing the two groups said he will file a federal suit within 60 days to force Millennium to obtain permits for cleanup work at the former Reynolds metals aluminum plant on Industrial Way. The two groups are Longview-based Land Owners and Citizens for a Safe Community and Vancouver-based Rosemere Neighborhood Association.

“Millennium is not a cleanup company. They are a newly formed company that’s in the export business,” said Gayle Kiser, president of the Longview group, an nonprofit with about 80 members in Cowlitz County.

The conservation groups’ Portland attorney, Scott Jerger, alleges in the suit that Millennium has failed to obtain the proper permits for stormwater and wastewater disposal for the past 209 days while handling coal, petcoke and other materials on the site. Millennium has been working on a cleanup of the Columbia River site since the beginning of the year.

Millennium inherited a giant pile of petcoke — a waste byproduct of the oil refining process from the site’s former tenant, Chinook Ventures, and Millennium officials say they are trying do determine how to remove it. Millennium also is handling about 9,000 tons of coal per month, which it delivers to Weyerhaeuser Co. The conservation groups allege that stormwater running through these materials is causing water pollution.

The total fines for alleged violations would be about $7.8 million, Jerger argued.

The suit was a surprise for Millennium, said Kristin Gaines, the company’s environmental and health manager. She said Tuesday she needed to review the filing before commenting on specific allegations.

“At first glance, I honestly don’t think there’s a lot of merit to their accusations,” she said.

Millennium owns the buildings and equipment on the 416-acre site where it plans to build a export terminal, bringing in coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming and offloading it to ships bound for Asia, mostly China.

Millennium is jointly owned by Australian coal company Ambre Energy and St. Louis-based Arch Coal. The company bought the property for $10.9 million in January from Chinook Ventures.

The mile-long coal trains would likely come through Vancouver rail yards, which is why the Rosemere Neighborhood Association became involved in the suit, said Djiva Bertish, the group’s director of environment and conservation.

The land is owned by Alcoa, which is on the hook with state federal regulators to clean up the site from years of contamination from aluminum smelting by Reynolds. Alcoa plans to submit a cleanup timeline to the state Department of Ecology early next year.

Article source: http://tdn.com/news/local/article_ce213a80-c2e2-11e0-98b8-001cc4c002e0.html

Groups: 2 coal operators breaking Clean Water Act - AP

June 29, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Dumping

A team of environmental groups says two coal companies that were fined in Kentucky last year for violations of the Clean Water Act continue to break the federal law.

ICG and Frasure Creek Mining exceeded the limits of pollution discharge allowed under law more than 4,000 times altogether in the first three months of 2011, the groups said. They made the allegations Tuesday in intent-to-sue letters required by the Clean Water Act.

Last year, the environmental groups took a similar action against the same two coal operators, but never filed suit because Kentucky officials and the companies reached a $660,000 settlement. The environmental groups are challenging the settlement in court, saying it’s not enough.

A spokeswoman for Arch Coal, which completed a merger with ICG in June, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday. A number for Frasure Creek, based in Scott Depot, W. Va., was disconnected.

Frasure Creek and ICG reported the violations from earlier this year to the state, according to Dick Brown, a spokesman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. State officials are planning to issue citations based on the violations, but Brown said the fines are pending. The state recorded 937 violations for Frasure Creek, and ICG number is still being prepared, Brown said.

Appalachian Voices, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper and New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance said they filed the notices this week to force the companies to comply with federal law.

“These violations represent a toxic soup being poured into our drinking water and streams,” said Ted Withrow, a member of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and former officials with the state Division of Water.

Under the Clean Water Act, the companies have 60 days to respond to the allegations in the notice letter. Then, if the violations are not corrected, the environmental groups have the option to sue.

Article source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43584067

Clean Water Act suit to proceed against Seward coal facility

January 21, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Dumping

A Clean Water Act lawsuit alleging violations by the Seward Coal Loading Facility was allowed to go forward Jan. 10 by federal district Judge Timothy Burgess.

The coal facility, jointly operated by Alaska Railroad Corp. and Usibelli coal mine subsidiary Aurora Energy Services, has been a sore spot for Seward residents who say the coal dust from operations creates both a nuisance and a public health hazard.

Alaska Railroad Corp. and Aurora Energy Services were denied their bid for dismissal by Burgess.

The lawsuit, filed last January by Trustees for Alaska on behalf of the Sierra Club, Alaska Center for the Environment and Alaska Community Action on Toxins, alleges that a conveyor system delivering coal to export vessels allows coal to fall directly into Resurrection Bay along the length of the conveyor system to the loading facility, as well as from the belt after it loops back underneath itself.

Trustees for Alaska said coal dust from the stockpiles, railcar dumping facility, stacker/reclaimer, ship loader and the conveyor systems fall into Resurrection Bay. There are also concerns over Aurora Energy plowing snow that is allegedly contaminated with coal dust, as well as storm water that flows directly into Resurrection Bay.

The coal dust also blows off the facility’s two massive coal stockpiles into the bay, covering nearby fishing charter boats, other vessels and nearby neighborhoods with dust and debris.

“We are pleased that the Court will allow the case to move forward and address the pollution problems at the coal facility in Seward,” said Trustees for Alaska attorney Brian Litmans in a statement. “The facility is unable to contain the coal dust and keep coal from going into Resurrection Bay, which violates the law and is an ongoing nuisance and health issue.”

The statement from the consortium of plaintiffs also stated Seward was covered with coal dust both on Dec. 10 and Dec. 22.

Last July, the railroad and Aurora reached a joint compliance order with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to pay a $220,000 fine, with most of that money going toward the cost of dust mitigation measures.

Three supplemental environmental projects ordered by DEC were completed on schedule in 2010 and include the installation of additional dust suppression equipment including spray bards, high-pressure spray nozzles and a sealed chute and fogging system on the stacker/reclaimer.

According to Alaska Railroad Corp. vice president for corporate affairs Wendy Lindskoog, another $540,000 in capital expenditures are planned for 2011 regarding dust suppression projects.

Lindskoog said it is company policy to not comment on ongoing litigation.

The Seward coal loading facility, which is located on land owned by the Alaska Railroad, was originally built in 1984 as an economic development project to sell coal to world markets.

Suneel Alaska Corp., the purchaser of the coal for the Korean domestic market, negotiated with the state for construction of the coal dock and a loan from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities built the dock and Suneel installed the conveyor and loading systems.

Railroad officials said their participation was limited to leasing waterfront property for the facility and transporting the coal from Healy to Seward under a contract with Suneel.

Suneel and its successor, Hyundai Merchant Marine, continued to purchase coal and operate the facility through the 1990s and into the early 2000s, with AIDEA becoming a co-owner of the facility in 1995.

Hyundai remained the lessee on the property and operated the facility until January 2007, when the railroad entered into an operating agreement with Aurora Energy Services.

Since then, railroad officials said, the Alaska Railroad and Aurora Energy Services have spent more than $1 million on safety, operational and environmental improvements, including significant environmental upgrades to deal with coal dust.

Andrew Jensen can be reached at andrew.jensen@alaskajournal.com.

Article source: http://www.alaskajournal.com/stories/012111/oil_cwasp.shtml