Pittston Coal Company - In 1970, Pittston Coal Company, based in New York, bought Buffalo Mining Company and started construction of the third coal-waste dam on Buffalo Creek. The third dam was built in order to comply with state regulations concerning water pollution, a commonly used practice in West Virginia. The dams gave the coal waste time to settle out of the water before being released downstream. The coal-waste dams consisted of excess rock and coal left over from the mining process which was deposited in the river. Since the coal-waste dams were not classified as official dams to the state, they did not have to meet state regulations concerning dam construction. At the time coal-waste dams where seen as the most practical form of getting rid of coal-waste. Alternatives to coal-waste dams include dumping the waste water into the river without the filtration process of the dams or pumping the waste into abandoned mine shafts, a very expansive process at the time.
Gerald M. Stern representing Arnold and Porter law firm - Gerald Stern, a partner at Arnold and Porter, took the case for the Citizens Commission as part of a pro bono program in exchange for contingent-fees.
Department of the Interior - The Bureau of Mines had fined Pittston Coal Company over five thousand times for worker safety infractions totaling $1,303,315 in the year leading up to the dam failure. Pittston protested all of the violations and had paid $275 to the federal government by the time of the dam failure. The Department of the Interior was in charge of the geological survey and final reports after the dam failure.
Governor Arch Moore - Governor Moore was in office during the time of the dam failure and settled a $100 million lawsuit for disaster relief and punitive damages with Pittston for $1 million. In order to prevent "irresponsible reporting," he banned journalists from entering the disaster area. The Governor also tried to take advantage of the federal disaster funds that were allocated to the disaster to build a super highway through Buffalo Creek County. The federal disaster funds would have been used to buy the victim's land that was needed to build the highway. The Governor had tight control over the state's judicial system as he had appointed many judges to their positions. The Governor was largely seen by the Charleston Gazette to favor mining companies, and in 1990 he pleaded guilty to five felony charges of corruption including bribery, obstruction of justice and illegal campaigning. In 1990 he also confessed to taking an unknown monetary payment from Pittston Coal for the settlement of the West Virginia's case against Pittston.
Buffalo Creek Citizens Commission - The Citizens Commission started as a group of twelve low-income self-appointed citizens who were affected by the dam failure. The group later grew as the twelve members were able to organize the community. After the disaster, the members wanted to sue Pittston Coal Company for losses that resulted because of the flood of water including lose of loved ones and property. The Commission did not represent a particular group although it shared a common bond of anger towards Pittston Coal Company. It approached Arnold and Porter in hopes that the law firm would take the case.
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