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Justice sues Justice, so to speak: Feds seek $4.7 million in fines owed by coal companies owned by W.Va. governor

“The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a civil lawsuit against 23 coal companies owned by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, seeking more than $4.7 million in unpaid fines and fees for mine safety and health violations,” Brittany Patterson reports for West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

The DOJ said in a news release that companies being sued racked up almost 2,300 safety and health violations in the past five years, and ignored multiple demands by several federal agencies to pay the debts. The companies are in Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, Patterson reports.

Investigative reporting over the past few years brought Justice’s debts to the public’s attention. A 2016 investigation by NPR, the Ohio Valley ReSource and WVPB “found that Justice’s mines owed $2.6 million in overdue mines safety fines, as well as millions more in unpaid tax debt,” Patterson notes. An OVR story last month revealed that the amount had increased to $4.3 million. “That meant the Justice companies had by far the highest delinquent mine safety debt in the U.S. mining industry,” Park reports. “And it was also far more than the companies owed when Justice ran for governor in 2016, when he pledged to make good on such debts.”

The Rural Blog is published by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.