During this run for governor of West Virginia in 2016, Governor Jim Justice pledged to repay the state money his family owed from mining violations they committed. However, NPR reports that instead of paying, he allowed that number to almost double from $2.5mm to $4.3mm.
"[Gov. Justice] and his family has simply chosen to disregard, flagrantly violate, continually violate and increasingly violate the rules of mine safety and the penalties of mine safety," says Davitt McAteer, a former head of MSHA during the Clinton administration.
His family’s firm, the Justice Companies, received over 5,000 violations at 71 different mines stretching from Alabama to Virginia. These constitute roughly 10% of all unpaid mine penalties in the entire industry.
Governor Justice did not respond to requests for comments but his company’s representative, Richard Getty, tried to refocus the conversation on the company’s safety record and stated that most of these violations occurred before their acquisition by the Justice Companies. However, further analysis shows that all of the penalties were brought on during ownership by the Justice Companies.
While the Justice Companies is the worst offender, about 8% of mines in America have overdue penalties, some going back to 1994. This can have serious effects on workers as injury rates at delinquent mines are 31% higher than at their non-delinquent counterparts.
"Any friend of coal has to admit that there is no greater responsibility of a coal operator than to protect the lives of miners," he says. "The failure to pay civil penalties is a way of saying, 'Safety doesn't matter. We don't care, we can get away with it.' "
Read the full story here.