A new billboard up on US-60, just east of Milton, located on the right-hand side of westbound US-60, just before the Milton Flea Market, West Virginia, calls out the Blackjewel coal company for its effort to walk away from its legal requirement to complete reclamation at dozens of coal mines in Kentucky. The billboard also highlights the fact that former Blackjewel CEO Jeff Hoops, who is under investigation for fraud, is now building a luxury resort near Milton, West Virginia.
The environmental laws that apply to coal mines, including the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, require coal companies to complete reclamation. When a company fails to complete reclamation, there are usually severe consequences for the company and its executives. And the state regulator is ultimately supposed to assume responsibility for ensuring the mines are cleaned up, even if it has to do the work itself.
Blackjewel’s bankruptcy should be finalized before the end of 2020, at which point it appears the bankrupt coal company will be off the hook for cleanup obligations at roughly 40 mines across eleven counties in Kentucky.
Sierra Club is now calling on Kentucky regulators to: 1) take responsibility for the mines abandoned by Blackjewel; 2) get workers back on site cleaning up the mines; and then 3) pursue Jeff Hoops for the cost, so it doesn't fall to taxpayers.