CHARLESTON, WVa. — A federal bankruptcy judge has denied a petition from former Blackjewel coal executive Jeff Hoops to liquidate the company. The decision means the reorganization of the company will continue under Chapter 11 bankruptcy as former employees, creditors, and state agencies seek to recover millions owed.
The nearly 3,000-filing-long Blackjewel bankruptcy docket demonstrates an 18-month scramble by the company’s creditors to recuperate as much money as possible from a too-small pot. According to court filings, Blackjewel also has multiple outstanding permit violations, an unknown amount of outstanding environmental reclamation liabilities, unpaid taxes totaling $2 million, tax liabilities of untold amounts, and millions in unpaid employee healthcare claims.
Federal Judge Benjamin A. Kahn did not explain in his order why he was denying Hoops’ petition to liquidate. But environmental advocates had previously objected to the request, arguing that liquidation would make it less likely that certain of Blackjewel’s mining permits would be reclaimed.
Blackjewel made headlines last year after its abrupt collapse left hundreds of Kentucky and Virginia coal miners out of work and without pay. Back in 2019, unpaid miners blocked rail traffic for months in Eastern Kentucky. Environmental advocates remain concerned that some coal mines will put a strain on state mine land reclamation funds or go unreclaimed altogether.
Hoops has been sued in the same bankruptcy court over alleged financial mismanagement of Blackjewel and associated companies.