TDEC levies $1.3M in fines against coal mining operations

State officials have levied a total of $1.36 million in civil penalties against three coal mining companies that have operations in Anderson and Campbell counties and are owned by a West Virginia coal baron, reports the News Sentinel.

Billionaire James Justice’s Justice Corp. has a history of racking up delinquent fines that are promptly appealed and can stay unpaid for years, said Ann League. She is with the environmental group Appalachian Voices, which focuses on coal-mining operations.

The civil penalties against three of the Justice Corporation’s companies — Premium Coal Company Inc., National Coal LLC, and S&H Mining Inc. — are for failing to submit daily monitoring reports of the quality of water runoff.

The penalties were imposed by the state’s Department of Environment and Conservation, and the TDEC-required reports are for effluent from the companies’ strip- and deep-mining operations during the last three months of 2013 and the first quarter of this year.

The companies are supposed to do self-reporting of water quality monitoring, said Jessica Murphy, compliance enforcement manager for TDEC’s Water Resources Division. It’s not known if those reports weren’t done or just weren’t sent in, she said.

Also uncertain: whether such monitoring is now underway. “I know the Knoxville office (of Water Resources) has been in contact with the (mine) owners,” Murphy said.

The civil penalties involved eight coal-mining sites in Campbell County and seven mining operations in Anderson County. A total of 25 facilities at the mining sites were in violation of the state guidelines. National Coal and Premium Coal have mines in Anderson County, while S&H Mining has four operations in Campbell County.

All of the state’s civil penalties have been appealed, said Kelly Brockman, TDEC spokeswoman