November 29, 2018
(Sheridan, WY) Today, Powder River Basin Resource Council (Resource Council) filed an objection with the Wyoming Environmental Quality Council (EQC) over Contura’s proposal to transfer their coal mine permits for the Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte mines to Blackjewel, LLC. The Resource Council’s objection maintains that the permit transfers fail to meet the Wyoming Environmental Quality Act (WEQA) criteria on reclamation bonding standards and that Blackjewel fails to meet state and federal criteria as a qualified operator.
“We need to take our time with this permit and make sure the federal and state laws are being followed. We must be especially vigilant about ensuring adequate bonds are in place and that any company who wants to do business in Wyoming is going to be a responsible operator,” said Resource Council Chair Joyce Evans. “We need an open, transparent process around this permit transfer to ensure the public has every opportunity to participate.”
In October, the Resource Council filed an objection over the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) proposed renewal of Contura’s Belle Ayr permit due to their use of ranchland as collateral in guaranteeing a portion of the mine’s reclamation bond. Contura claims the value of these Campbell County land parcels is $27 million; however, DEQ is withholding the appraisal from the public at the company’s request. The process’s lack of transparency led the Resource Council to object and request an informal conference on the matter, which DEQ denied.
“We have asked the EQC to hold a hearing on this matter because withholding the appraisal and then shutting the door on public participation is not the way to proceed. Wyoming taxpayers deserve to know whether or not they’re getting a good deal when it comes to millions of dollars in mine reclamation,” said Evans. Since Contura is the first coal company to use a real estate bond for reclamation, this could set precedent for other companies to follow.
Additionally, Blackjewel’s owner, Jeff Hoops, owns Revelation Energy, an Appalachian coal mine company with a pattern of operational and safety violations, many of which have been severe enough to force the company to shut down part of its operations until it could remedy the situation. Since state law prevents coal mine permits from being issued to operators with a pattern of violations, the Resource Council has asked the EQC to deny transferring the permits to Blackjewel.
For more information on the objection, contact the Resource Council at 307-672-5809 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. A copy of the objection and exhibits 1-7, exhibit 8, and exhibits 9a and 9b are available to download.