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Landowners' Group Files Complaint Against Wyoming DEQ For Records Violation

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Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality

The Powder River Basin Resource Council has filed a complaint against the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality for an alleged public records act violation.

The Resource Council is seeking documents and correspondence regarding the bond renewal for the Belle Ayr Coal Mine located near Gillette. Contura owns the permit for the mine, and its operated by Blackjewel.

The Resource Council specifically wants more information about some parcels of land that is being used for collateral as part of the mine's reclamation bonds. The land is located in Campbell County. Contura values the property around $27 million, but information about the land's appraisals have been not been released, according to legal documents. The land would make up about 22 percent of the mine's bondings.

The Resource Council wants the assurance that the property being used as collateral is in fact worth what the company says it is, Joyce Evans, chairwoman of the Resource Council said.

"First and foremost, of course, is the concern that the bond is not being covered, is not being backed up with actual cash value," Evans said. "Second concern is if this sets a precedent for companies being able to say 'Oh yeah, we have plenty of resources and we're good for that. And just don't worry about it.' That that sets a precedent for the public not being aware and not being informed of what kinds of bonds are actually being posted."

According to legal filings, the department did not release the documents because Blackjewel has requested the appraisal remain confidential. The department said it does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Catherine Wheeler comes to Wyoming from Kansas City, Missouri. She has worked at public media stations in Missouri and on the Vox podcast "Today, Explained." Catherine graduated from Fort Lewis College with a BA in English. She recently received her master in journalism from the University of Missouri. Catherine enjoys cooking, looming, reading and the outdoors.
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