By RONNIE ELLIS
Glasgow Daily Times
A lawmaker on the Natural Resources and Environment Committee — whose members last week complained the coal industry is being targeted by the Obama Administration — was once a shareholder in a company that forfeited its reclamation bond.
Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, was a minority shareholder in Energy Environmental Resources, which several years ago forfeited a $4,700 bond on a 4.71-acre coal mine site in Elliott County.
Webb said company president Mark Allen Kazee “had some personal issues, accumulated a lot of debt and then just kind of went off the radar. He left us with this thing, and we stepped up and made it right.”
CNHI News made several attempts to contact Kazee through multiple phone numbers and companies bearing his name, but was unable to reach him.
A woman who declined to identify herself or her relationship to Kazee answered one of the phone calls and acknowledged knowing Kazee, but said she didn’t know where he was.
“I don’t know how you can get hold of him,” the woman said.
Webb said the enterprise initially “looked good on paper” and Kazee appeared reliable and knowledgeable about the mining industry.
“At the time, it looked like a good business decision,” she said. “But, if I had to do it over, we probably wouldn’t have done it.”
She said the minority shareholders contributed to a settlement agreement with the state Energy and Environment Cabinet and paid for some reclamation work after Kazee left and before agreeing to the settlement.
The total cost for reclaiming the site was $10,425, or $5,725 more than the posted reclamation bond, according to a state-federal review of Kentucky’s reclamation bonds. Those amounts are relatively small compared to reclamation costs at other mining sites covered by the review. Several cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and one exceeded $2 million.
Officials with the state Department of Natural Resources said the company’s shareholders paid $3,000 in civil fines and penalties. Webb said the total costs to the shareholders, including penalties and reclamation work, exceeded that amount.
“I had to take it from my retirement, but he left us with this thing and we did everything we knew to do,” she said.
Webb, who once worked as an environmental attorney for the cabinet, said she and other shareholders considered pursuing Kazee in court but decided they weren’t likely to succeed.
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