Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kentucky coal operator admits to hundreds of violations in multi-million-dollar settlement

Jim Justice (AP photo)
"A billionaire coal operator has admitted to hundreds of reclamation violations in Eastern Kentucky and agreed to post $10.6 million in bonds to fix the problems," Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. "Under the deal with Kentucky regulators, Jim Justice of West Virginia also will pay $1.5 million in fines."

Justice, who owns coal mines in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia and Alabama faced at least 266 violations, including 129 in Kentucky.

His companies "already had paid $419,635 under citations included in the settlement but owed an additional $4,498,995, which was cut to $1.5 million as part of the deal," Estep writes. "In addition, Justice and his son, Jay Justice, pledged their personal assets to guarantee payment on the reclamation work and fine."

The settlement covers a wide variety of land reclamation work, such as cleaning out sediment ponds, stabilizing landslides, fixing drainage problems and monitoring water in several counties, mostly at surface mines but also some underground mines, Estep writes. "It also specifically mentions fixing three highwalls—sheer walls left when a company cuts a large notch in the side of a mountain to reach coal. Federal law requires restoring the approximate original contour of the slope, but in one case, a Justice company left a highwall more than a mile long and 80 feet high in Harlan County." (Read more)

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