Just Say No To Renewed Mountaintop Removal

Feb 23, 2022

Lexington Coal Company has applied to renew their Twilight III-A mountaintop removal permit on Cherry Pond Mountain in the Coal River watershed. This is one of two permits on the Twilight complex under a consent order for failure to comply with reclamation requirements, among others with several violations and delinquent civil penalties.  Join us in opposing renewal of the Twilight III-A permit, S502408. You can join in the virtual conference Wednesday, March 2, at 3 PM at http://meet.google.com/irs-avwf-eqn . UPDATE: WVDEP has added a call-in option for those who need or prefer it. The number is +1 662-676-0243‬ PIN: ‪507 280 955‬#.  Be sure to state that you OBJECT to renewal of Lexington Coal Company's permit number S502408. You can also state your objections by email by March 2 to the permit supervisor, David Wagner, at david.r.wagner@wv.gov. Here are plenty of reasons why this permit should not be renewed:

     In less than three years, Lexington Coal has accumulated 14 violations on this permit, a consent order, delinquent civil penalties, and, on Feb. 15, a civil penalty assessment of $22,500. The company has repeatedly demonstrated that it has neither the intention nor the capacity to either mine or reclaim this permit in accordance with WV laws and regulations. Other permits operated by Lexington on this complex are in the same situation, with a long list of violations and cessation orders.

The consent order from WVDEP will not effectively correct Lexington’s culture of noncompliance. The provision that coal removal be suspended for three consecutive days is moot. The cessation order prior to the consent order for this permit stated, “Permittee has previously ceased mining activities and pulled all equipment from this permit, therefore there are no production activities for cessation.”

The consent order stipulation that Lexington provide a new reclamation schedule is overly lenient, with no deadline by which to complete reclamation. Unless rejected by WVDEP, the plan allows Lexington to set their own timetable to correct their delinquent permit.

Bonding at this site is unclear. The bonding system in WV has been stretched and heavily scrutinized for allowing companies to bite off more than they can afford to chew. Lexington does not appear to have the stability to reliably meet their reclamation obligations, as they have demonstrated by failing to meet their obligations on this and neighboring sites.

Nothing in the permit or the consent order precludes Lexington from resuming active mining on this site that is still listed as “Active—Moving Coal.” Active mining would involve blasting, causing hazardous dust to exit the permit boundary and enter the communities in the area. A significant body of peer-reviewed scientific research has documented the health effects in neighboring communities, including cancer, heart disease, and birth defects.

     Lexington Coal Company has failed to meet the requirements of WV Code 22-3-19 (a) (1) because:

(A) The terms and conditions of the existing permit are not being satisfactorily met.

(B) The present surface mining operation is not in compliance with the applicable environmental protection standards.

(C) The renewal requested substantially jeopardizes the operator's continuing responsibility on existing permit areas.

     WVDEP should not grant an "inactive status" for this permit. Doing so will only allow Lexington Coal to indefinitely delay their reclamation responsibilities, as WVDEP has allowed at other area permits.

Here’s a drone video of the Twilight complex. Twililght III-A is at the far side. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DZOSckBZH8

Update: Here's another drone video, this one of the Crescent 2 permit at the south end of the Twilight complex.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vCWE3iO3_g Crescent 2 has 16 violations, with multiple patterns of violation, in the past 11 months. We've submitted a request for WVDEP to order Lexington to "show cause" why they should keep the permit. To get a sense of the scale of this complex, the little bunch of trees on top of a peak in the distance is the Jarrell Cemetery, about 4 miles away. The whole complex is about 6 miles north to south.