A federal judge has approved a deal that requires Massey Energy to pay a record $20 million fine to resolve thousands and thousands of alleged unpaid water pollution violations across the Appalachian coalfields.

Charleston Gazette reporter Ken Ward, Jr. says U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. issued a 17-page order that approved the resolution of the major water pollution lawsuit filed against Richmond, Virginia-based Massey by the U.S. Department of Justice and the EPA.

Copenhaver said the case had "appeared poised to consume a significant amount of time and money from the parties" and hence the taxpayers.

"The decision to avoid what might well have been a costly and time-consuming diversion of limited agency resources appears to have been a reasonable one, under the circumstances," Copenhaver said.

Environmental activist Dave Cooper, suggested part of the $20 million from the deal be used to build a new Marsh Fork Elementary School, to replace one near a Massey coal processing plant and waste impoundments.

Officials said the money could not be used for such issues.

The original lawsuit detailed thousands of violations of permit limits for acidity, sediment, iron, manganese and other pollutants.

In some cases Massey discharged pollution in amounts 40 times the permitted limits.

Massey has a long history of not paying fines and non-compliance with water pollution to West Virginia streams.

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