Bankruptcy, fines and accountability

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services is trying to prevent a business man facing a $2.65 million fine for the illegal disposal of radioactive waste from erasing that penalty in bankruptcy court.

Through his company, Advanced TENORM Services LLC, Cory Hoskins imported or arranged for the collection, transport and disposal of 2.4 million pounds of low-level radioactive waste from West Virginia and Ohio. The waste was dumped into Green Valley Landfill in Greenup County and another landfill in Estill County from June 2015 through January 2016.

The cabinet wants a judge to determine that Hoskins’ debt is “nondischargeable,” meaning it can’t be wiped out in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, according to a complaint filed in U.S Bankruptcy Court.

The cabinet, citing federal law, says an individual debtor should be not discharged from any debt payable to a government unit and is not compensation for “actual pecuniary loss.”

TENORM is an acronym for “technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material,” which is a byproduct of pressurized oil drilling or fracking. In November, the state sought more than $8 million in penalties against eight companies involved in the transport or disposal of out-of-state waste in Kentucky.

The cabinet says the $2.65 million civil penalty against Hoskins doesn’t include recovery for future abatement and remedial costs at either landfill. Another cabinet, the Energy and Environment Cabinet, is seeking remediation costs through the landfills that accepted the out-of-state waste.

Hoskins appealed his civil penalty in December. On March 16, Hoskins notified the cabinet of his bankruptcy filing and automatically stayed his administrative appeal. No state hearing has been rescheduled.

The state also sought a separate penalty of $2.65 million against Advanced TENORM Services. The Cabinet doesn’t seek to have that penalty declared “nondischargeable,” attorney Jennifer Wolsing said.

“If you are a corporation and you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and after the bankruptcy is done, the corporation dissolves,” Wolsing said. “So that means there would be no entity to go get that debt after the bankruptcy is over.”

None of the other firms fined by the state has filed for bankruptcy.

“Every other entity has at least engaged in settlement talks with us,” Wolsing said. “The only exception has been Cory Hoskins and Advanced TENORM Services. We reached out to them at least twice to say, ‘Hey, do you want to talk to us about settlement options?’ and not a word. They didn’t want to do it.”

If Advanced TENORM Services ceases to be because of its bankruptcy, there is little chance of any of the cabinet’s fines being paid. That’s why the cabinet wants to hold Hoskins accountable for the fines against his company while it exists. Holding companies and the individuals who own them accountable for their misdeeds is the best way to discourage future misdeeds and to pay for the costs incurred by those misdeeds. Bankruptcy should not be a way to escape that accountability.

Daily Independent of Ashland


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