Nearly 60 Kentucky residents have filed a lawsuit against neighboring coal companies, alleging negligent practices that contributed to the recent historic flooding.
The lawsuit, filed in Breathitt County Circuit Court last week, seeks personal property damage such as homes and vehicles wrecked by the early August floods that killed 39 people and left hundreds of Kentucky residents without a place to live. Many residents of Lost Creek, an unincorporated city in eastern Kentucky, are now homeless and living in tents. They are also seeking compensation for emotional damages from Blackhawk Mining and Pine Branch Mining.
Blackhawk Mining, founded in 2010, currently operates eight coal facilities in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia, including the Pine Branch complex, an open-pit subsidiary approximately seven miles from Lost Creek. The company has grown in recent years despite your old bankruptcy and a global downturn in coal investment where large financial institutions have withdrawn from coal operations. The Pine Branch Coal Mine is uphill from Caney Creek, a tributary of the North Fork Kentucky River, and neighbors the community of River Caney, of which Lost Creek is a part.
Coal mining has deep roots in eastern Kentucky and may have directly caused some of the worst flooding in its history. past research suggests that flood-prone communities in eastern Kentucky overlap with heavily mined landscapes changed by mountaintop removal, a process in which mountains are blasted and rain-absorbing vegetation is killed to access the coal seams below. The lawsuit alleges that the Blackhawk and Pine Branch operations were “ticking time bombs set to explode in any type of heavy rain.”
“They will not have water for six months. All the power lines are down,” Ned Pillersdorf, the attorney representing Lost Creek residents, told Grist. “Most of the people, if not all, are displaced.” Pillersdorf has experience suing coal companies in the wake of devastating floods other represented West Virginia coal miners fighting for paychecks after the bankruptcy of the coal giant Blackjewel.
The lawsuit alleges that Blackhawk and Pine Branch failed to properly maintain their sediment retention ponds, causing polluted waters to flood the homes of Lost Creek residents. These ponds accumulate debris, sediment, and water from coal mining. Sediment pond flooding is not new to coal communities and has caused the evacuation from the neighbors to decadesand has Contaminated nearby canals.
The lawsuit alleges that “debris, silt, and other matter, including fish, escaped from the sediment ponds and found their way onto many of the plaintiffs’ property,” and neighboring coal companies violated state law by failing to properly maintain these. ponds.
Blackhawk Mining said in a company statement that it disagrees with the claims in the lawsuit. However, recent flooding hasn’t stopped the coal company from destroying mountains, and the lawsuit alleges the company posted notices that blasting will continue in the coming months even though communities are still recovering from the flooding. A report NBC News also found that the Pine Branch has circulated notices detailing that operations will continue from now until next July.
“Our people were deeply affected by the flooding, including the loss of loved ones, homes and belongings. We have been supporting the community with relief efforts since the beginning and our condolences go out to those affected,” the statement said. “The flood was an unprecedented natural disaster.”