Thursday, June 02, 2016

W.Va. coal baron and gubernatorial nominee runs behind on reclaiming Kentucky strip mines

Justice owns The Greenbrier.
UPDATE JUNE 8: "Kentucky environmental regulators spent the weekend and Monday investigating a mudslide at a Pike County surface mine owned by West Virginia coal baron Jim Justice that they say contributed to local, damaging flooding last week," James Bruggers reports for the Louisville Courier Journal. "State officials Monday confirmed their investigation was centered on Justice's Bent Mountain mining operations, which had significant reclamation deadlines last year and are the subject of ongoing enforcement activities."

"U.S. Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation spokesman Chris Holmes said the company contacted the federal agency Monday – in Tennessee, not Kentucky, and not to let it know about the problem but to say the company was moving people out of Tennessee to help people in Kentucky with a flooding problem," Bruggers writes. "The Justice-owned company, Kentucky Fuel Corp., was cited by state regulators for having an overflowing diversion ditch that sent mud and water down a hill, damaging six homes, officials said. Citations included alleged violations involving sediment control, off-permit disturbance, failure to notify, failure to pass water quality and a diversion ditch failure. Multiple other homes had mud and debris on their property, and a county road was also muddied."

West Virginia coal and hotel operator Jim Justice, the state's Democratic nominee for governor, is asking a Kentucky judge for more time to reclaim strip mines in eight Eastern Kentucky counties.

"I am OK with what they are proposing," state Natural Resources Commissioner Allen Luttrell told Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate yesterday. But he said Justice's mines "have been out of time for months, and months, and months," and steady progress is needed. Another hearing will be held July 13.

Wingate told Justice representative Billy Shelton that the court needs progress reports every two weeks on their progress. "Shelton balked," reports James Bruggers of The Courier-Journal. "He had suggested monthly reports, according to state officials, who said past reports by the company were misleading: One company would start a bulldozer and let it idle in place, not doing any work, and they'd report that as reclamation activity." Wingate told Shelton, "All you have to do is take a picture. I could do that with my iPhone."

One of the highwalls that need reclaiming
State lawyer Anna Girard Fletcher told Wingate that the Justice companies "have quite a bit of work to do to come into compliance." Bruggers writes, "Justice has proposed a new compliance plan, but Fletcher declined to make that immediately available. The Courier-Journal reported on Monday that of the nine miles of surface-mining highwall  that were supposed to be reclaimed by Sept. 1, barely over a half-mile has been completed. State officials have called the matter one of their largest mining enforcement actions in more than 15 years. The companies are accused in court documents of falling behind restoration goals that were agreed upon in August 2014."

No comments: