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Viper Coal Hit with Delinquent Penalty Complaint

Posted by Ellen Smith on July 23, 2013

The government has filed a lawsuit against Viper Coal LLC for $318,981 in outstand MSHA penalties.

However, as of March 2013, MSHA records show that Viper, controlled by Jody D. Puckett, owes $501,634 in outstanding penalties, and was number 21 on the Mine Safety and Health News list of 98 controllers owing $100,000 or more in MSHA penalties (20 MSHN 189; April 8, 2013).

According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Pikeville, KY., the penalties arose between January 2008 and August 2011.

One of the mines that was operated by Viper/Puckett, the #11 Mine (MSHA ID #1518472) shows a long list of operators who never paid their penalties. When the mine was operated by “Foggy Mountain Coal,” and controlled by Connie Bryant the mine amassed $179,902 in delinquent penalties that MSHA now lists as “uncollectible.”

James Bevins, who briefly controlled a Viper mine in 2009, amassed a little over $12,000 in delinquent penalties.

Once again, MSHA records show a string of operators who come into a mine, are cited for for safety and health violations, some of which maim or kill miners, and then the operator/controller leaves the mess.

Why Treasury and MSHA are not going after Viper for all delinquent penalties, and why the government waited five years is a mystery.

The system is broken and must be fixed.

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