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Blackjewel Owes Campbell County Over $8 Million

Stephanie Joyce

A coal company in the Powder River Basin has avoided paying millions in personal and property taxes to Campbell County. Blackjewel has fallen delinquent $8,647,576.23 in taxes primarily from production, according to Campbell County attorney Carol Seeger. They were due last year. On March 1, another $8 million will come due. If the company doesn't pay it by May 10, it will be considered delinquent.

Blackjewel, led by an eastern coal executive, bought the Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte mines back in 2017. Gillette Senator Michael Von Flatern said it's been clear since then the company hasn't been paying its taxes, but it took 18 months for them to become delinquent.

"I almost blame ourselves for getting ourselves in that same position. We knew they didn't have the financial wherewithal and running under the other mining permit because they couldn't meet the reclamation obligations," Von Flatern said.

A bill that's passed through the state legislature would allow the county to get priority in collections of the debt, but Von Flatern says it's not retroactive and won't help in this case. Another concept toyed with in the legislature Von Flatern said could have helped. It would change the payment schedule to monthly.

"We would've known instantly they weren't going to be good neighbors rather than waiting," Von Flatern said.

He said the company asked to be put on a monthly payment schedule. The second half of 2018 taxes is due tomorrow, March 1. Campbell County Treasurer wrote it's about the same amount of money as the first half. If not paid, it will become delinquent in May.

Blackjewel was unavailable for comment.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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