West Virginia Gov Jim Justice's family sued by Biden DOJ after he announces run for Manchin's Senate seat

The DOJ said that the companies 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."

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the son of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice as well as his son’s coal companies, coming just weeks after Justice announced a run for Sen. Joe Manchin’s seat in 2024. 

The DOJ sued 13 coal companies that are owned or operated by Jim Justice III, alleging the operations violated their legal obligations under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 and "have failed to pay uncontested penalties assessed for their uncontested violations."

The department said that the companies 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 [OSMRE]."

Additionally, the department stated that the companies owe over $190,000 in Abandoned Mine Land reclamation fee debts.

On behalf of the Secretary of the Interior, the DOJ seeks to recover "$4,376,328 in uncontested corporate civil penalties, $1,419,959 in uncontested individual civil penalties, and $190,759.97 in uncontested AML reclamation fee and audit debts, in addition to unpaid pre-judgment interest, late payment penalties, and administrative expenses collectively owed by Defendants, and to hold Defendants accountable for their violations."

The lawsuit states that between 2018 and 2022 the OSMRE cited Premium Coal, National Coal, and S+H Mining with more than 100 violations, and issued over 50 cessation orders.

These violations include "failure to maintain the face of a dam, its diversion ditches, and emergency spillway," "failure to ensure the seismic stability of a dam," "failure to pass surface drainage through an approved siltation structure before leaving the permit area," and "failure to maintain diversion ditches leading to uncontrolled drainage," among others.

In regard to various notices given to these coal companies, the lawsuit states that "Defendant Justice failed to enter an abatement agreement or timely administratively contest" the violations.

The department’s lawsuit requests that Justice and the companies pay the outstanding penalties and fees within 30 days of judgment, adding that a 10 percent surcharge be added.

According to Axios, Justice III took control of the companies after his father assumed office in 2017.

"Through this suit, the Justice Department seeks to deliver accountability for defendants’ repeated violations of the law and to recover the penalties they owe as a result of those violations," said Todd Kim, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

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