In re: Appalachian Fuels, LLC, No. 12-8026 (6th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Seven affiliated debtors are entities that conducted deep and strip coal mining and operated coal prep plants and loading facilities in three states. The bankruptcy court authorized joint procedural administration, but not substantive consolidation. The administrative expense claims at issue arise from environmental damage. The land and the coal were subject to leases that terminated before commencement of bankruptcy proceedings. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) issued mining permits and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits to the debtors and affiliated entities for the operations. The bankruptcy court denied WVDEP’s application for administrative expenses against two debtors. The Sixth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel held that the court failed to properly analyze the debtors’ potential liability for reclamation obligations associated with permits owned by their affiliate. WVDEP’s administrative expense claims were properly denied to the extent they were based on derivative liability for the debts of the affiliate, either based on veil piercing or substantive consolidation. The court abused its discretion in denying the claims that were based on direct liability for reclamation obligations associated with the permits owned by the affiliate and in denying claims that were independent of the threshold question of joint and several liability for reclamation obligations associated with the permits owned by an affiliate.