West Virginia Governor’s Son and Coal Companies He Owns Face DOJ Lawsuit for Failing to Pay Millions in Environmental Penalties

Justice Department Accuses West Virginia Governor’s Son and His Coal Companies of Environmental Violations


The Department of Justice accused Jay Justice, the son of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, and 13 coal companies owned or operated by him of failing to pay millions of dollars in penalties for environmental violations.

The companies reportedly owe over $5 million in civil penalties and have been cited for more than 130 violations, among other unpaid fees, according to the DOJ’s civil complaint.

DOJ’s Statement

Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said in a press release: “Our environmental laws serve to protect communities against adverse effects of industrial activities including surface coal mining operations. 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.”

Governor’s Involvement

The elder Justice, reportedly the richest person in West Virginia, has been accused of meddling in his family business empire as governor, even after vowing to separate himself from the companies upon taking office. Those businesses have also faced accusations of not paying their bills.

Justice is currently campaigning for the Senate seat held by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, but his campaign insists that he does not run the family companies.

Lawsuit Details

The DOJ’s 128-page complaint covers violations stretching over five years, beginning in 2018.

The lawsuit notes that more than 100 violations and 50 cessation orders were issued to just three of Jay Justice’s companies from 2018 to 2022. The allegations include failing to maintain a dam’s face and seismic stability, failing to clear rubble from a haul road, and failing to properly dispose of non-coal waste, among others, according to the complaint.

Those violations “pose health and safety risks or threaten environmental harm,” the DOJ wrote.

Response to Lawsuit

A lawyer for the Justices’ businesses did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Tate Mitchell said in a statement: “Joe Biden’s Department of Justice has gone totally rogue. Democrats weaponizing the federal government to attack the family of a Republican Senate candidate is a complete abuse of power.”

Potential Impact

Jim Justice was reportedly looking to sell the coal businesses in March, according to the Wall Street Journal. The DOJ’s lawsuit could impact those plans, along with Jay Justice’s political aspirations and the family’s business empire.

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