West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice.
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The Department of Justice on Wednesday accused the son of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and 13 coal companies the younger Justice owns or operates of failing to pay millions of dollars in penalties for environmental violations.
Jay Justice, the governor’s son, and those companies under his control, have been cited for over 130 violations and owe more than $5 million in civil penalties, among other unpaid fees, the DOJ alleged in a civil complaint.
“Our environmental laws serve to protect communities against adverse effects of industrial activities including surface coal mining operations,” Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said in a press release.
“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,” Kim said.
The elder Justice, who is 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.
The Republican governor last month launched his campaign for the Senate seat held by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. Justice’s campaign insists the governor does not run the family companies.
Manchin, who could face an uphill battle to reelection in the deep-red state despite his incumbent status, has not said if he plans to run again in 2024.
A spokesman for Justice’s Senate campaign did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
In a statement, National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Tate Mitchell said, “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.”
The DOJ’s 128-page complaint against Jay Justice and his companies covers violations stretching over five years, beginning in 2018.
The lawsuit notes the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement issued more than 100 violations and 50 cessation orders to just three of those companies between 2018 and 2022. The allegations include failing to maintain the face of a dam and ensure its “seismic stability,” failing to clear rubble from a haul road after a rock fall 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.
A lawyer for the Justices’ businesses did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Wall Street Journal reported in March that Jim Justice was looking to sell the coal businesses.