CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Thirteen coal companies owned by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice are being sued over unpaid penalties for previous mining law violations that the federal government says pose health and safety risks or threaten environmental harm.
Justice, who was not named in the lawsuit, accused the Biden administration of retaliation. A Republican two-term governor, Justice announced in April that he is running for Democrat Joe Manchin’s U.S. Senate seat in 2024. He will face current U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney in the GOP primary.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday says that over the past five years, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement cited the companies for more than 130 violations. The lawsuit says the total amount of penalties, fees, interest and administrative expenses owed by the defendants is about $7.6 million.
U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh of the Western District of Virginia said the defendants were ordered more than 50 times to stop mining activities until the violations were corrected. “Today, the filing of this complaint continues the process of holding defendants accountable for jeopardizing the health and safety of the public and our environment,” Kavanaugh said in a statement.
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