By Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2020

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky officials are concerned that two bankrupt coal companies could abandon their environmental obligations.

At a hearing this week in West Virginia, officials said Blackjewel LLC and Revelation Energy might leave Kentucky taxpayers with a bill for millions in mine reclamation costs, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Reclamation is a process of improving the natural areas affected by mining; at surface mines that typically means restoring the contours of the landscape and planting grass and trees.

State officials told the court that Blackjewel’s violations account for about 30 percent of the total outstanding noncompliance notices issued by the Kentucky Department of Natural Resources at the end of 2019.

Blackjewel made national headlines last year when the company suddenly laid off hundreds of miners and failed to pay them for past work. Several employees protested the move by blocking loads of coal from moving on railroad tracks in Harlan County. The company eventually paid the workers.

At a bankruptcy hearing in Charleston, West Virginia, on Wednesday, Kentucky officials referred to a letter the state filed Jan. 13 in which the department reviewed 20 percent of permits held by Blackjewel and Revelation. It found that the bonds used to cover reclamation liabilities would fall about $38 million short of covering the estimated costs.

Blackjewel has said in court that it has sold, or is planning to sell, many of the permits that require reclamation work.

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