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W. VIRGINIA ACCUSES UTAH-BASED FIRM OF VIOLATIONS AT MINES

A Utah-based company convicted of federal felonies for violating the Clean Water Act also violated numerous environmental laws at five West Virginia mines, state officials say.

Gene Coccari of the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection said the state is still investigating the principal officers of The Benham Group Ltd. of Salt Lake City and a closely related company located in Nellis, W.Va."The state isn't finished with these companies yet, independent of what the feds are doing," Coc-cari said.

The Benham Group owes more than $707,000 in state and federal environmental fees, fines and reclamation costs from its five West Virginia mine sites.

The Nellis Corp. operated two of those sites and owes the state nearly $340,000 in similar fees.

The company's five mining permits were in Boone County, including four underground mines.

Lynn McCauley of the U.S. Office of Surface Mining said the company is blocked from getting new mining permits anywhere in the country because it abandoned its West Virginia mining sites without reclaiming them.

The Benham Group admitted to illegally releasing acid mine drainage that polluted Honeycamp Fork, a tributary of the Coal River.

Last week, Benham group manager and consultant Paul Skvaril pleaded no contest to a criminal misdemeanor of negligence. He was sentenced to two years probation and 100 hours of community service related to environmental cleanup in Rafael, Calif., where he now lives.

The Benham Group will be sentenced in December in Salt Lake City.

Cleanup costs at the company's mining sites amounted to $566,348.