Kentucky asks for emergency hearing to address ‘imminent danger’ at Blackjewel mine

Published: Feb. 20, 2021 at 10:56 AM EST
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BELL COUNTY, Ky. (Herald-Leader) - The Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet requested an emergency hearing Friday on bankrupt coal company Blackjewel’s failure to clean up its Bell County mine which, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, state officials warned could cause “imminent danger” to the health and safety of nearby citizens.

Bankruptcy court Judge Benjamin A. Kahn has heard officials’ requests and set a hearing for Wednesday.

“We don’t know what those threats might be that arise,” Kahn said. “We don’t know how imminent those might be, and they may be significant and imminent and require immediate attention.”

Back in January, mining inspector Jason Keaton discovered that ponds on the mine were full and may potentially breach at any time, spillways were eroded with one being nearly washed out, and water with high levels of Ph, iron, and manganese was spilling into the Stoney Fork Branch and a nearby tributary.

The ponds are located on a hill above several homes, a state highway, and a railroad in Stoney Fork.

Back in 2016, similar conditions led to mud, water, and debris from the mine washing down the hillside and damaging property.

Blackjewel was notified about the conditions back in January, but Keaton claims David Runyon, a field representative of the permittee, had mentioned not meeting with inspectors in order to “buy time” for Blackjewel’s attorneys.

He says Runyon also told him the contractor hadn’t been paid for a previous job and “wouldn’t even consider this job until they got paid.”

The Energy and Environment Cabinet has filed complaints relating to Blackjewel’s failure to clean up mines in the past.

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