LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Regulators want the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice to pay a penalty and follow through on a promise to fix environmental problems at eastern Kentucky coal mines.
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet asked a circuit judge this week to enforce an agreement over reclamation violations against Justice; his son, Jay Justice; and several family coal companies. It included a $3 million penalty, plus interest, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.
In a motion filed in Franklin County, the Kentucky agency wants to revoke five permits at Justice-company mines and seize money that had previously been posted for reclamation. The motion seeks to force the companies to fix the site violations and block any new or amended permits until then.
The Justices and their companies “have been provided many second chances to meet their permit obligations and time and again have failed,” the motion said.
Lexington attorney Richard Getty, who represents the family, said the state’s request was “unnecessarily severe.”
Justice has said many of the violations were inherited when he acquired the properties.
The companies admitted to hundreds of reclamation violations in eastern Kentucky in 2014 and agreed to monitor water quality, fix drainage problems, stabilize landslides, clean out sediment ponds and eliminate highwalls at dozens of mines.
After the companies missed a deadline to fix the issues, the state sued in 2015 to enforce the earlier agreement. A new settlement was reached in 2019 setting deadlines to complete reclamation work at five mines, along with other requirements.
Last year, Justice's companies agreed to pay more than $5 million for thousands of mine safety violations in a civil case brought by prosecutors in Virginia on behalf of the U.S. Department of Labor and the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Justice blamed a bankrupt United Kingdom bank in a court filing earlier this year for fraudulently inducing him into personally guaranteeing $700 million in loans that were taken out by his companies.
The Republican governor, who Forbes recently took off its list of billionaires because of mounting debt, also revealed in a separate lawsuit that he is personally on the hook for $368 million to Virginia-based Carter Bank & Trust.