7/25/14 – Coal Giant Jim Justice Ordered to Cease Mining Operations in Tennessee –Billionaire’s subsidiaries face steep fines
Knoxville, Tennessee – The federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) has issued 39 cessation orders against three Jim Justice owned companies in Tennessee. The subsidiaries in question – National Coal, Premium Coal and S&H Mining – have also been issued “Notice of Violations” from OSMRE under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) for failing to report water monitoring data and for road maintenance violations and a failure to meet mine reclamation requirements. The total financial cost of the violations is not known at this time.
OSMRE recently held public hearings on cessation orders against Premium Coal mining operations in Anderson County, Tenn. The hearings were held to address the company’s failure to meet reclamation requirements when they did not plant trees and other vegetation on disturbed areas at two mine sites within the timeframe required by their mining permits. Since the hearings, a letter of decision for both permits has been issued by OSMRE denying Premium Coal’s request to drop the cessation orders.
“You’d think a coal billionaire could hire firms that can plant a tree the right way around. Sadly, Premium Coal’s reasoning for not meeting permit requirements was simply that they ran out of time and hired a bad crew that planted trees upside down with the roots sticking up,” said Sierra Club Organizer Bonnie Swinford. “Justice and his firms have a legal responsibility to ensure adequate reclamation of strip-mined land in our state—and upside-down trees don’t cut it. Justice owned companies should hire local tree-planting companies and use the best possible reclamation practices.”
Additional cessation orders have been issued against Justice companies for failing to file “discharge monitoring reports” (DMRs) as required by the Clean Water Act. Mining companies are required to submit DMRs for active mines. DMRs catalog the concentrations of pollutants coming from mines and are critical in Environmental Protection Agency and state efforts to ensure that pollution from coal mines does not harm local waterways, aquatic life or drinking water.
Last month, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM) and Sierra Club filed notices of intent to sue regarding 14 Jim Justice permits, for failure by subsidiaries to file water pollution data in violation of state and federal laws. Additionally, the groups filed a lawsuit against one of the companies, S&H Mining, for unlawful mining pollution.
Stephanie Langley, the Chair of SOCM’s E3 (Energy, Ecology, and Environmental Justice) Committee said, “We applaud the efforts of OSMRE to hold Jim Justice accountable for his negligence. These companies have a long history of violations and are notorious for harming the environment and the people of Appalachia.”
Recent reporting by E&E News reveals that coal mines owned by billionaire James Justice II have been cited for more than 250 environmental violations in five states, with unpaid penalties worth about $2 million. The same reporting indicates that additional violation notices against Justice mines have been issued in Alabama, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia. In Virginia, several of Justice’s subsidiaries’ surface mine operations have been threatened with forfeiture of their bonds, due to inadequate reclamation on those operations.