Blackjewel and Revelation Energy’s July bankruptcy announcement is the latest in a long string of bankruptcies plaguing the coal industry. But this bankruptcy is different, and the troubles it brings could be a sign of more problems to come.
After Blackjewel and Revelation Energy declared bankruptcy in July, the companies retroactively withdrew paychecks from their former employees’ bank accounts, triggering a nearly two-month long protest and several court battles.
Coal company bankruptcies are putting the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund in further jeopardy.
Citizen scientists discovered that acid mine drainage is causing a creek in Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest to flow a bright orange, and they spurred state regulators to issue citations to the mine operators. But mining company Revelation Energy is in bankruptcy, which leaves big questions about who will clean up the mess — and when.
Two coal company bankruptcies in July resulted in retroactively withdrawn paychecks from coal miners and an unclear future for roughly 13,000 acres of unreclaimed mine land.
In February, a federal judge allowed Westmoreland Coal Company to terminate benefits for current and retired coal miners.
A federal bankruptcy judge ruled that Westmoreland Coal Company can back out of its collective bargaining agreements with current workers and retirees as soon as Feb. 28, putting pensions and health benefits for thousands of people at risk.
Although Central Appalachian coal production has seen a slight rebound since 2016, it may be short-lived due to export and transportation costs. Additionally, two coal companies filed for bankruptcy last fall.
Westmoreland Coal’s bankruptcy puts health benefits for 500 Virginians and pensions for 7,000 former Virginia miners in jeopardy. A bill proposed in the Senate would protect these benefits — and also shore up the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.
In October 2018, the oldest coal company in the United States filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. While now largely operating in the western United States, Westmoreland has many ties to Southwest Virginia.