Freedom Industries has tentatively agreed to release long-sealed budget reports showing actual past expenses and projected future costs for cleaning up the site of the January chemical leak but some budget information will likely remain hidden.
In a federal bankruptcy court hearing in Charleston Tuesday which Chief Judge Ronald Pearson called over concerns that too much of Freedoms limited assets were being spent on things other than remediating the Elk River site, which he said is the primary goal the judge asked Freedoms Chief Restructuring Officer Mark Welch whether the company is amenable to publicly releasing the documents that Pearson has been keeping under seal.
Pearson said he believes releasing them would increase public confidence in the process.
Welch, whom Freedom hired to manage its finances while it winds down operations, said he no longer objected to the documents being made public, though Freedom attorney Mark Freedlander then asked Pearson whether the court would still keep hidden budget assumptions that include narratives and other explanations of how the projected figures are calculated.
Pearson agreed, and the court and Freedoms attorneys now plan to negotiate about what will be released and when.
Welch said hes not opposed to releasing all past and future periodic budgets for the remediation of the Etowah Terminal site, where a leak of Crude MCHM and other chemicals fouled the water of hundreds of thousands of West Virginians for days.
He said he wanted the documents sealed previously for various concerns, including that there were more unanswered questions about the cost of remediation at the time and that he wanted to keep potential bidders on the cleanup work from basing their bids on projected costs.
He said his concerns are allayed now that Freedom has hired Arcadis as a new project management and remediation contractor following its June firing of Civil & Environmental Consultants shortly after there were two overflow incidents of potentially contaminated stormwater into the river in two days under its watch and hired SPSI as a direct site cleanup subcontractor.
Ive replaced operational management, Welch said. Ive replaced everybody.
The budget documents could shed more light on the ongoing costs of the remediation process at a time when the judge, Freedoms creditors and the wider public are concerned that the bankrupt companys initially limited funds are dwindling to a point that it wont be able to both adequately remediate the site and pay its obligations.
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Freedom may release budget documents