In early August, several environmental advocacy groups including Appalachian Voices, the publisher of this newspaper, sued the parent companies of four West Virginia coal and chemical facilities for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.
Jeff Hoops, owner of the Lexington Coal Company, is also the owner and former CEO of the Revelation and Blackjewel mining companies, which filed for bankruptcy in July. Both companies have held back workers’ paychecks and have retroactively withdrawn money from the bank accounts of former employees.
The Bluestone Coal Corp. is controlled by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, and has been sued by the federal government for its failure to pay fines for miner safety and health violations.
“If not forced to correct their polluting discharges, these operations will continue to contribute to the ultimate demise of water quality that’s so important to the health and well being of all,” Cindy Rank of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, one of the groups involved, said in a press statement.
These lawsuits follow the groups’ June announcement of their intent to sue the parent companies of 15 coal facilities and one chloride plant for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. Citizens challenging the enforcement of the Clean Water Act and federal surface mining law must first send “notice of intent” letters that initiate a 60-day window for the agencies to address the problem before a lawsuit can be filed.
The groups are legally represented by nonprofit law firms Appalachian Mountain Advocates and Public Justice.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated from the print version on Aug. 7, 2019, after the lawsuits were filed.