In Kentucky, under state law, a single surface co-tenant can lease to a coal company the right to mine and destroy the surface over the objection of the rest of the co-tenants. Our clients, the Johnson Family, own a five-eigth’s interest in the surface of the 450 acre hollow that has been in their family for two generations. A coal company owns the remaining interest in the surface. With that minority 3/8 interest, the company was able to get a permit from the Kentucky mine permit agency to operate a mountaintop removal mine on nearly 118 acres of the 450-acre plot of land. We have been representing the Johnson family since the permit was originally granted in October 2013.
Through continuing and often simultaneous litigation in multiple forums, we have prevented mining since June 2014. This was a major victory for our clients. However, we were unable to set a new precedent that prevents Kentucky’s practice of allowing its mining permittees to secure the right to mine over the objection of the landowners. We are now looking for ways to challenge Kentucky’s state law in order to restore important fundamental rights to landowners in Kentucky.