BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Amidst a lawsuit with the Jefferson County Department of Health and GASP over air regulation violations, new complaints have been filed against Bluestone Coke over money.
Right now, the plant is currently in a “cold idle,” meaning it’s not operating.
“The fact that they’ve gone from operating to hot idle, to cold idle means that they’re going to have a hard time getting this plant back up and running without some major upgrades,” said GASP Executive Director Michael Hansen.
In the months following our November investigation, when we reported the plant did not having an active business license, the Alabama Dept. of Revenue filed a complaint alleging Bluestone Coke didn’t pay state taxes from October 2020 to July 2021. Those court documents were filed on Jan. 4.
In December, Alabama Power also filed a complaint alleging Bluestone Coke owes more than $2.7 million dollars in unpaid bills. According to the court documents, Alabama Power says it provided electric service to Bluestone beginning March 5, 2020, and Bluestone failed to make payments.
An attorney for Bluestone Coke told CBS 42 the state taxes were paid last week, and Bluestone is working on a plan to pay Alabama Power. Bluestone’s attorney, Steve Ruby, said in an email:
“The plant has been working with the state to ascertain the correct amount of its outstanding tax obligations, and yesterday it made a payment of $245,510.33 to resolve those obligations in full. In October, the plant was idled after years of financial struggles that stemmed largely from its outdated facilities. The upgrades that will be made during the idle period will allow the plant to operate profitably, preserve local jobs, and resolve certain outstanding financial obligations. In the meantime, the plant will seek to reach a payment plan with Alabama Power that addresses its current balance to the best of its ability until it can resume operating. The plant is working with the Jefferson County Department of Health to obtain the necessary permits to begin the upgrade process and expects to receive them within the next couple of months.”
Bluestone Industries’ owner, and West Virginia Governor, Jim Justice has not responded to our repeated requests for an interview.
Back in November, he spoke on the issue during a COVID-19 press conference in response to our reporting.
“That plant had been bankrupt for all practical purposes, bankrupt two different times prior to us getting it,” Justice told our sister station WOWK. “We’re going to do the right stuff, that’s what our family does.”
Over the years, several north Birmingham neighbors have reported health conditions like asthma and cancer, which they believe are caused by the emissions coming from the plant.
“Since they is shutdown people is breathing more better,” said Collegeville neighbor Gary Gibbs.
According to court documents, JCDH has found several air regulation violations at Bluestone over the past two years that could put people’s health at risk.
CBS 42 also reached out to JCDH, Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Dept. of Revenue and were not given a comment at this time, citing ongoing litigation.
Stay with CBS 42 for the latest on this developing story.