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Blackjewel to pay County $17M in Unpaid Taxes

Blackjewel, LLC, has entered into a monthly payment plan with Campbell County to clear itself of over $17 million in taxes from 2018 and future taxes for 2019.

The coal company is expected to make its final payment by April 30, 2020, after Blackjewel CEO Jeff Hoops reached with the county last week.

“It was a negotiated arrangement,” said Deputy County Attorney Carol Seeger, adding that, in the end, neither Hoops nor the County got the payment schedule they wanted.

The official agreement was adopted during the regular County Commission meeting April 2, during which Seeger explained Blackjewel was delinquent for half of its 2018 ad valorem tax to the County, around $8.6 million.

If payment is not received by May 10 this year, the second half will also be considered delinquent, Seeger advised, pushing the total amount for 2018’s unpaid taxes around $17.3 million.

The first half of 2019’s ad valorem taxes are due September 2019 and will also be considered delinquent if not paid in full by November.

The agreement provides that Blackjewel will become, and continue to be, current on paying their taxes in accordance with the payment schedule outlined by state statute, Commission Chairman Rusty Bell stated.

“Obviously, we don’t like this precedent, but at least [Hoops] has made the effort to come up with a plan and pay the back taxes,” he said.

The plan dictates that Blackjewel make weekly payments of $500,000 for 10 consecutive weeks.

The first payment was due Friday, March 30, which came through without incident, Seeger advised.

“They have wired that money into our account, so they have kept that first payment obligation,” she said.

After the 10 weeks, Blackjewel will make a single $1 million payment, and $2 million dollar payments every month until the coal company is paid up on its taxes.

“This gives us a good payment plan going forward that gets them caught up and keeps them operating,” Commissioner D.G. Reardon said, adding that it keeps Blackjewel employees in Campbell County working without encumbering them, or Hoops, with undue hardship.

Commissioner Del Shelstad said that he hopes the good faith shown by Hoops will extend to Blackjewel’s local vendors and suppliers.

Allegedly, local vendors have experienced difficulty in receiving payment for services provided to Blackjewel’s Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte Mines.

“It significantly impacts our community when a company of this size doesn’t pay vendors in this town,” Shelstad said.

Blackjewel’s unpaid taxes are also adversely affecting the Campbell County School District, which is supposed to receive a portion of ad valorem taxes, per state statute.

With Blackjewel’s payments scheduled, ad valorem proceeds recipients can look forward to receiving the dollars that should have already been paid to them.

However, the full $17 million will only be distributed in increments as each payment comes in.

Hoops reportedly first contacted the County hoping to set up a payment plan in 2018, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.

Seeger, however, denied Hoops presenting anything that resembled an actual “plan,” though she did agree that Hoops had reached out to the County in the past in reference to the unpaid taxes.

This is not the first time that the County has battled to secure unpaid taxes with the owners of Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr.

The most recent instance occurred when Contura Energy, a coal company birthed from Alpha Natural Resources, failed to pay ad valorem taxes from both mines as well.

Both mines had failed to pay the taxes after Alpha declared bankruptcy in 2015, depriving the County of around $20 million.

In 2018, the County reportedly settled at a loss after spending upwards of $1 million in legal fees, the Star-Tribune reported.