The U.S. government sued nearly two dozen of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s coal companies Tuesday to get them to pay roughly $4.8 million in unpaid mine safety fines.
The civil lawsuit was filed by federal prosecutors in Virginia on behalf of the U.S. Department of Labor and the Mine Safety and Health Administration, The Associated Press reported.
Justice’s companies committed nearly 2,300 federal Mine Health and Safety Act violations since May 2014, but have refused to pay the penalties despite multiple attempts by federal agencies to get the money, according to the lawsuit.
“This is unacceptable and, as indicated by this suit, we will hold them accountable,” U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen told AP.
All 23 companies are listed in the governor’s most recent financial disclosure form and they operate in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky. Justice and his son and daughter are listed in the lawsuit as controllers of the companies.
Justice, with a fortune estimated at more than $1 billion, made most of his considerable fortune from his coal mining interests.
A lawyer for Justice’s companies told the AP he was upset the case was brought since the companies have been in negotiations to resolve the fines since November.
“We’re extremely disappointed that the U.S. attorney in Roanoke (Virginia) has chosen to file this lawsuit at this time,” said Michael Carey, an outside counsel who represents Justice’s companies.
In the last month, two federal subpoenas sent to Justice’s administration have become public. The first subpoena was sent to the West Virginia Commerce Department, seeking contracts, communications and financial records from the state relating to the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, owned by the governor, its annual Greenbrier Open PGA golf tournament and the tournament’s financial arm.
The second subpoena asked the state revenue department for communications, meeting records and tax documents involving the state and any business interests held by the governor.
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