The Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the coal empire of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice over $5 million in unpaid fines related to health, safety and environmental violations.
The civil action names as defendants 13 of the Justice family coal businesses ― based in West Virginia, Virginia, Delaware and Tennessee ― and the governor’s son, James Justice III.
“Defendants have been cited for over 130 violations and have failed to pay over $5 million in civil penalties assessed by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement,” the 128-page lawsuit states, adding that the Justice family businesses also owe more than $190,000 in fees related to abandoned mine lands.
The billionaire Republican governor, who just launched a campaign for the Senate seat held by conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in West Virginia, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The civil penalties assessed by the Department of the Interior concern violations from 2018 to 2022. They include a failure to ensure the seismic stability of a dam, unlawful discharges outside the permit area, a failure to stabilize surface areas to control erosion and a failure to ensure revegetation is compatible with the region’s natural surroundings.
Justice’s coal empire has been cited for numerous other safety violations. In 2020, a ProPublica investigation found that over the past three decades, his companies had been tied up in more than 600 lawsuits and paid $128 million in judgments and settlements.