The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Wednesday that it filed a lawsuit against Republican West Virginia Gov. and Sen. candidate Jim Justice’s son, along with 13 coal companies he owns or operates, for unpaid civil penalties.
For the past five years, James C. Justice III’s coal companies have “violated their legal obligations under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977,” the lawsuit, filed Tuesday, reads. The Department of the Interior (DOI) Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) cited Justice on over 130 violations between 2018 and 2022 and issued 50 cessation orders to the companies, according to a DOJ press release.
“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 statement, according to the 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.”
The lawsuit seeks the recovery of unpaid corporate civil penalties and individual civil penalties, along with the reclamation fee and audit debts. Defendants owe approximately $7.6 million in total, per the press release.
Gov. Justice announced a bid for the Senate seat held by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in April. He currently holds a 22 point lead on Manchin among West Virginia voters, according to a Tuesday East Carolina University (ECU) poll.
In March, the Citizens Bank of West Virginia filed an application to garnish 20% of the governor’s $150,000 annual salary to cover a $861,085 judgement against one of his coal companies. The company, Bluestone Resources, is operated primarily by his son who serves as chief executive officer, according to West Virginia Metro News.
“I don’t want to be critical of the bank, but it is a political grandstand,” he said at the time. “It’s just a way to hit back.”
Justice did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. James C. Justice III could not immediately be reached for comment.
The DOJ declined to comment.
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