Kentucky judge says West Virginia governor must pay $2.9M in fines over coal mine violations

Published 9:36 pm Wednesday, November 10, 2021

A judge has approved a request from Kentucky regulators to force West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice to pay $2.9 million in fines for cleanup violations at some eastern Kentucky coal mines.

The Tuesday order from Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate requires that the Justice companies finish reclamation work at the mines, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. The order also allows the state to take posted bonds to cover the work.

Kentucky officials called the violations at the Justice-owned mines “among the most egregious we have seen in nearly a decade” when the original agreement with Justice was struck back in 2014.

Most of the sites are surface mines. The work includes cleaning out ponds, stabilizing land, improving drainage and reshaping the land to its original pre-mining contours.

Under the agreement with Kentucky, the West Virginia governor and his son, Jay Justice, are personally, jointly liable for the $2.9 million penalty. Jay Justice runs the company’s coal, timber and agriculture businesses.

The Justices have argued that they have not been able to meet the deadlines because of the economic downturn and safety concerns caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In September, the state’s Energy and Environment Cabinet asked Wingate to rule the Justices had defaulted on the deal.

Jay Justice recently announced plans to resume mining and reclamation work at four surface mines in three eastern Kentucky counties and hire an estimated 150 people.

“It’s always been our intent to complete this work,” said Lexington attorney Richard A. Getty, who represents the Justices.