Environment, community groups take aim at Blackjewel Coal

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Environmental and community groups have taken aim at the coal giant’s clean-up efforts in a letter to federal bankruptcy court.

A coalition of eight community and environmental groups, sent a letter to the United States Bankruptcy Court overseeing Blackjewel’s bankruptcy proceedings.

The company filed for bankruptcy last July and left many workers unpaid for weeks.

The letter provides an update on the company’s failure to adequately address coal mine reclamation and numerous other environmental violations in three states. The fulfillment of coal mine reclamation requirements is crucial to ensuring proper cleanup of closed coal mines.

Blackjewel has previously told the bankruptcy court it plans to satisfy its clean-up obligations by selling and transferring its permits to third parties willing to assume the responsibilities of environmental cleanup.

However, the letter claims the vast majority of Blackjewel’s permits sold to third parties have not been transferred and in many cases transfer applications have yet to be filed even months after the sales.

In Kentucky, no transfer activity has occurred for 149 of Blackjewel’s 213 mine reclamation permits. In Virginia, only 34 of Blackjewel’s 71 permits have been transferred, while in West Virginia, only five of 12 permits have been transferred. The company has indicated that non-transferred permits will be abandoned.

Abandoning this many unreclaimed permits could shift the burden of cleaning up Blackjewel’s coal mines from the company onto badly underfunded state government reclamation funds. If Blackjewels’s abandoned coal mines are not reclaimed properly, the public health and safety of frontline communities near these hazardous sites could be seriously compromised.

In addition, the letter alerts the court to Blackjewel’s increasing number of environmental violations, the groups say.

In Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia, the company has failed to comply with Clean Water Act monitoring and reporting requirements designed to track the amount of toxic discharge into waterways, according to the group’s claims.

The letter also includes a yearly comparative analysis of on-the-ground environmental violations occurring at the company’s Kentucky coal mines.

The groups sending the letter are Sierra Club, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, Inc., Appalachian Voices, Citizens Coal Council, Kanawha Forest Coalition, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC), Kentucky Resources Council, and Powder River Basin Resource Council.

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