Justice Department Sues Coal Companies Linked to WV Gov

Justice Department Sues Coal Companies Linked to WV Gov wsjnewspaper

The Justice Department is taking legal action against coal enterprises owned by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, accusing them of evading payment of over $5 million in civil penalties for mining violations.

In a 128-page lawsuit filed on Tuesday, the Justice Department targets James C. “Jay” Justice III, the governor’s adult son, and his ownership or operation of 13 coal companies. This development coincides with Gov. Justice’s campaign for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Joe Manchin.

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The lawsuit asserts that these businesses neglected to remit fines imposed by the Interior Department for more than 130 violations committed between 2018 and 2022, leading to risks to health, safety, and the environment. The Justice Department seeks a court order mandating the companies to repay the fines along with accrued interest.

The attorney representing the younger Justice and the spokesperson for the governor, who is not listed as a defendant, did not respond to requests for comment.

The violations encompass a range of issues, including failure to maintain dam facades, allowing erosion of haul roads by surface-water flows, inadequate sediment-control measures, clogged culverts, and improper disposal of non-coal waste. Additionally, the companies have not made the required contributions to a federal fund that taxes coal producers to facilitate the cleanup of old and abandoned mines, as stated by the Justice Department.

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Christopher Kavanaugh, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, instructed the businesses to halt mining operations on more than 50 occasions until they rectified the violations. He emphasized that “the filing of this complaint continues the process of holding defendants accountable for jeopardizing the health and safety of the public and our environment.” Kavanaugh lodged the lawsuit in Roanoke, Virginia.

In April, the 72-year-old Gov. Justice entered the 2024 Senate race, presenting a significant recruitment victory for Republicans. Furthermore, with Democrats holding a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate, Manchin’s seat is a prime target as Republicans strive to regain control. However, Manchin has yet to announce whether he will seek re-election.

Finally, the U.S. The Justice Department’s Senate campaign claims that the lawsuit against his family has a political motivation, asserting that “Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, and the Democrats, upon seeing the polls showing Jim Justice winning this race, are panicking.”

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