CHARLESTON, W.Va. (March 27, 2020) – The West
Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) announced Friday that
it filed suit against ERP Environmental Fund, Inc., the company that acquired
over 100 mining permits out of Patriot Coal Corporation’s bankruptcy in October
2015. The overwhelming number of ERP’s permits are in West Virginia, with
others in Kentucky, Illinois, and Tennessee.
The suit, filed Thursday in the Circuit Court
of Kanawha County, alleges that ERP had accumulated 160 violations of the
State’s environmental laws, had failed to abate 118 cessation orders, and is
the subject of 41 orders to show cause why its permits should not be revoked.
The suit seeks the entry of injunctive relief barring ERP from violating the
State’s environmental laws and asks the court to appoint a special receiver to
assume control of ERP’s assets, operations, and affairs to ensure its
compliance with the environmental laws.
In connection with the filing, the WVDEP is
also seeking immediate injunctive relief and the temporary appointment of the
special receiver, pending further proceedings in the suit. The WVDEP’s requested temporary order would
also bar ERP’s creditors and other parties in interest from taking actions
against ERP’s assets and interfering with the special receiver’s actions.
According to the WVDEP’s motion, ERP laid off
all its employees and management as of last Friday, March 20, and ceased all
operations, leaving its mining sites abandoned and subject to the imminent risk
of harm to the environment and the public health and safety.
The WVDEP has proposed that Doss Special
Receiver, LLC be appointed as ERP’s receiver. Doss Engineering, Inc. and its
principal, R.B. (Barry) Doss, are the principals behind Doss Special Receiver
and will perform the functions of the receiver.
Indemnity National Insurance Company, which issued approximately $125
million in surety bonds backing ERP’s obligations under its mining permits, has
agreed to provide $1 million in funding to Doss Special Receiver to fund its
operations for an initial period of 90 days.
WVDEP Cabinet Secretary Austin Caperton called
the suit historic.
“ERP essentially walked off from its
operations on Friday, leaving the public exposed to health and safety
concerns," he said. "The WVDEP had no option but to step in to seek
the appointment of a receiver to take control of ERP’s operations to protect
the public health and safety.”
The suit, which the WVDEP had ready for filing
Wednesday, was delayed initially as a result of the closing of the Kanawha
County Court. The WVDEP has asked that the Court consider its motion for
temporary relief immediately. A hearing was scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday.
For more WVDEP news and
information, go to www.dep.wv.gov. Also, connect with the agency on
all social media platforms. Follow @DEPWV on Twitter, Like us on Facebook
at https://www.facebook.com/depwv/, and find us on YouTube by
searching “Environment Matters.”
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