Black Water Spill Near Devonia, TN Highlights Out-Of-State Ownership Fears

Posted by JW Randolph | January 9, 2012 at 11:42 am


While One Company owned by WV Businessman Jim Justice Sends Black Water Into the New River, Another Lays off 155 workers

Only a few years removed from the catastrophic coal sludge disaster at the Kingston coal plant, some central Tennessee residents may be again on the run from coal waste in nearby Devonia. Sometime last week, reports indicate that a coal preparation plant above Rosehill near Frozen Head State park was spilling black water from a pond discharge into the New River. The New River, an American Heritage River, flows into the Big South Fork. The flow was so strong it is said to have flowed up stream, and it has been reported that black/gray water was observed about 40 miles downstream from the plant.

Companies are required to report such spills to both the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) and the Tennssee Department of Environmental Conservation (TDEC). In this case they didn’t, it came from a citizen report. This particular coal preparation plant is owned by Ranger Energy Premium Coal and West Virginia businessman Jim Justice. Justice owns several other coal companies, which control at least five of the active mining sites in the state of Tennessee, including Zeb Mountain. He made waves last year, when Ranger bought out National, the largest coal producer and employer in Tennessee. It was a shock for all of us then to hear over the weekend that Justice was essentially shutting down National Coal, laying off 155 workers, at least temporarily. If true, this would represent more than 40% of all coal employment in Tennessee, reported at around 370 total statewide jobs for 2011. Appalachian Voices sends our deepest condolences to these workers and their families as they look to find new work.

The Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward has written several in-depth articles on Jim Justice’s record in West Virginia here and here. Needless to say, it doesn’t inspire confidence in how these out of state operators will treat our mountains and are communities here in the Volunteer State.

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