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Coal Company to Pay Record Civil Fine of $27.5 Million for Water Pollution

Settlement calls for Alpha Natural Resources to clean up water flowing from coal mines in five states. Under the agreement with U.S. and state regulators, Alpha will spend $200 million to reduce pollution from mines in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The company will also pay $27.5 million, the largest civil penalty ever for permit violations under the U.S. Clean Water Act, in connection with more than 6,000 such violations from 2006 to 2013. U.S. regulators said Alpha has “a long history of noncompliance with the Clean Water Act.” But a company official downplayed the extent of the violations, saying that Alpha’s “total water-quality compliance rate,” taking into account pollutants at all of its operations, was 99.8 percent last year. The New York Times, The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette

Greenpeace report says Europe’s aging nuclear power plants pose an increasing risk. The report concludes that because of Europe’s heavy dependence on nuclear energy, governments are likely to extend plant operations 20 years or more past their designed limits. It recommends that European Union policies be changed to spur repairs and discourage construction of new plants. Like most nuclear plants, European reactors were built with a 40-year expected lifetime. As they age, operators usually have two options: shut down or make repairs to extend operations. While many critics want the plants to be shut, regulators in Europe — where nuclear energy accounts for about 15 percent of total energy production — increasingly seem to favor keeping the plants running. The average age of Europe’s nuclear plants is 29 years, the report found. Al Jazeera America

Court finds that some fruits and vegetables sold in India’s capital are unfit for consumption because of pesticide residues. The Delhi High Court’s conclusion was based on a report that examined food samples in the capital city and found a fraction of them to contain alarming levels of pesticide residues. India still uses pesticides banned in several other countries, according to the World Health Organization. The court ordered the government of New Delhi to set up a “Pesticide Residue Management Cell” within four weeks to address the issue. It also asked the city’s government and the Ministry of Agriculture to act quickly to make consumers and farmers aware of the presence of banned pesticides in their food. The Wall Street Journal 

Northern California slaughterhouse sold meat from cows with eye cancer. The disclosure came in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act concerning Rancho Feeding Corp., the Petaluma, Calif., company that recalled nearly 9 million pounds of beef products last month. Meat processed by Rancho was sold to thousands of stores, including Kroger, Food 4 Less and Wal-Mart as well as smaller markets that cater to Latino customers. In addition, Nestle recalled its Philly Steak and Cheese flavored Hot Pockets after it discovered a supplier bought Rancho meat. Regulators said they found two cattle heads with cancer that had made it to market without any evidence of being inspected. There are no reports of illnesses linked to Rancho’s meat. Los Angeles Times

U.S. and other nations get some blame for China’s severe air pollution. William J. Kelly, co-author of the forthcoming book “The People’s Republic of Chemicals,” argues that China’s pollution scourge has its roots in trade pacts set in motion by President Bill Clinton in the early 1990s. The agreements, he writes, allowed U.S. firms to exploit cheap labor and lax environmental standards in a nation where coal energy reigns supreme. The U.S. also helped China finance dirty sources of energy. And as much as one-third of China’s carbon load on the atmosphere can be traced to goods made for Americans and Europeans, experts say. “We made a big mistake” by not including environmental safeguards in trade policies with China, said Mickey Kantor, Clinton’s chief trade negotiator and later commerce secretary. InsideClimate News

Report finds that Alzheimer’s disease may be the No. 3 cause of death in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has listed Alzheimer’s as the sixth-leading cause of death, far below heart disease and cancer. But the new report, published in the medical journal Neurology, suggests that the current system of relying on death certificates to tally numbers misses the complexity of dying for many older people and underestimates the impact of Alzheimer’s. While the CDC attributed about 84,000 deaths in 2010 to Alzheimer’s, the report estimated that number to be 503,400 among people 75 and older. That puts it close behind heart disease and cancer, and well above chronic lung disease, stroke and accidents. The Washington Post

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein