Feds, several states settle clean water complaints with Justice coal companies

Filed on Sept. 30 by the Justice Department at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia was both a lawsuit and a proposed settlement of that lawsuit with various companies controlled by coal operator Jim Justice, including Southern Coal Corp., alleging Clean Water Act violations at coal operations in Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky.

The deal was also worked out by regulators in the affected states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Affected companies include Southern Coal, Justice Coal of Alabama LLC, A & G Coal Corp., Four Star Resources LLC, Infinity Energy Inc., Kentucky Fuel Corp., Sequoia Energy LLC, Bluestone Resources Inc., Dynamic Energy Inc. and Justice Highwall Mining Inc.

Said the proposed consent decree: “The Complaint alleges that the Defendants have violated the conditions and limitations of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (‘NPDES’) permits issued to them by the relevant State of Alabama, Commonwealth of Kentucky, State of Tennessee, Commonwealth of Virginia, and State of West Virginia pursuant to the EPA-approved permit program under Section 402 of the CWA…. The Complaint also alleges that Defendants, National Coal, LLC, and/or Premium Coal Company, Incorporated, discharged pollutants to waters of Tennessee and waters of the United States from point sources without NPDES permits in violations of Section 301(a) of the CWA…. The Complaint further alleges that Defendants National Coal, LLC and Premium Coal Company, Incorporated failed to comply with EPA’s requests for information in violation of Section 308(a) of the CWA….”

Southern Coal has a principal place of business at 818 North Eisenhower Drive, in Beckley, West Virginia. Southern Coal conducts business, including managing the defendants’ overall coal operation’s environmental compliance, at 302 South Jefferson Street, Roanoke, Virginia. In 2012, James C. Justice II, James C. Justice III and Jillian L. Justice were the record owners of all the outstanding stock of Southern Coal. In 2013, Southern Coal advised the State of Alabama, State of Kentucky, the Knoxville, Tennessee office of the federal Office of Surface Mining, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, that Southern Coal as a coal company and major landowner of substantial acreage in those states, was providing managers and supervisors at its properties and coal mining operations with authority and resources necessary to carry out environmental management and environmental compliance.

James C. Justice II is the primary organizer of these companies, with James C. Justice III, his son, also heavily involved in these companies. It is the father who is currently running for governor of West Virginia. Said his campaign website: “Upon the death of his father in 1993, Jim became the President and CEO of Bluestone Industries, Inc. and Bluestone Coal Corporation. Over the next 15 years, Jim launched a massive expansion of multiple businesses which included significant coal reserve expansion, Christmas tree farms, cotton gins, turf grass operations, golf courses, timber enhancement and land projects just to mention a few. Jim is the President and CEO of 83 different companies and knows how to create jobs.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.