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Rural Blog: Top manager of bankrupt coal company’s West Ky. mines charged with falsifying dust samples

Last year, eight former supervisors for now-bankrupt Armstrong Coal Co. were indicted on charges of conspiring to submit fraudulent dust samples to the federal government. Last week, their boss was charged with ordering the fraud. Glendal “Buddy” Hardison, 69, of Belton, was “one of the most senior-level former coal company officials in Kentucky,” the U.S. Department of Justice office for the Western District of Kentucky said in a headline on its press release about the indictment.

U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman and Asst. U.S. Atty. Randy Ream
announced the indictment. (Photo by Kelly Farrell, The Messenger, via Rural Blog)

The indictment alleges Hardison and his minions “conspired to commit dust fraud by knowingly and willfully altering the company’s required dust-sampling procedures, by circumventing the dust-sampling regulations, submitting false samples, and by making false statements on dust certification cards,” from 2013 through August 2015.

U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman and Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Ream traveled 150 miles to Madisonville to hold a press conference about the indictments at the regional office of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

“We’re going after the bad actors, such as Armstrong Coal, and I can assure you this investigation remains open and this investigation remains active,” Coleman said. “Our goal is to go up the chain to those that made decisions, very clear business decisions that exposed miners to a grave degree of risk” at Armstrong’s Parkway and Kronos mines.

Kelly Farrell of The Messenger in Madisonville reports, “Michael ‘Flip’ Wilson of Hanson, who mined for more than 40 years, attended the press conference and said afterward he worked at Parkway Mine in Muhlenberg County. He estimated about 165 people were exposed to dust at the mine. The mine is no longer open, while Kronos Mine [in Ohio County] is in operation under different ownership.”

“It’s about time for somebody to stand up and do the right thing,” Wilson told Farrell. “I’ve got black lung in both lungs and am not able to do anything now.” Cases of the disease have surged in Kentucky in recent years.

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.

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