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Massey Energy Shares Plunge on News of U.S. Government Suit

Shares in coal producer Massey Energy tumbled more than 14% after news that the U.S. government sued the Appalachian miner for thousands of violations of the Clean Water Act.

The shares were down on the New York Stock Exchange before being halted for pending news. The stock was the worst percentage decliner on the New York Stock Exchange.

According to the lawsuit filed by the U.S. government in West Virginia last week, data submitted by the company showed that from January 2000 through March 2006, "Massey Energy subsidiaries violated the CWA by discharging pollutants in excess of their average monthly or maximum daily permit limits approximately 4,100 times, resulting in approximately 60,534 days of violation."

Massey has an "extensive history of violating the Clean Water Act" in West Virginia and Kentucky, according to the lawsuit, which seeks to end the discharges as well as civil penalties.

A company statement attributed to Massey President and Chief Executive Officer Don Blankenship said Massey submits several thousand water samples every year to the states where it operates. Massey believes it has achieved a compliance rate of "99% or better" for the permits cited by the government.

"Importantly, the vast majority of incidents at issue had little or no impact on water quality," the statement said.

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