A mere two weeks into his term as West Virginia governor, federal officials have revealed firms owned by mining and agriculture magnate Jim Justice are in arrears of some $4.6 million in fines and penalties, most over safety violations.
The West Virginia The Mine Safety and Health Administration has stated some of the debt has been paid through an agreement which includes an installment plan.
First reported by NPR and the AP in October 2016, NPR revealed Justice-owned mining companies owed $15 million in six states for mine-safety penalties, and a myriad of state and federal taxes.
The owner of 50 firms nationwide, Justice preferred to defer comment on fines and penalties that his firms owe to company attorneys, but appeared unrepentant for the debt while campaigning in the Mountain State.
On the campaign trail, Justice repeatedly said he was not avoiding penalties, but rather steering his firms through economic uncertainty and protecting his employees while other firms in West Virginia went bankrupt.
“Unlike the coal companies that filed for bankruptcy and walked away from their obligations, the Justice companies are being responsible and following the agreed-upon payment plan. . . . The Justice companies are taking the proper steps to make good on all MSHA commitments. To imply anything beyond that is purely for political reasons and ignores the facts,” said Justice lawyer Billy Shelton.
Reportedly the wealthiest man in West Virginia with an estimated worth of $1.5 billion, Justice has refused to accept salary and has vowed to place his businesses in a blind trust to be administered by his children while serving as governor.
[AP] [World Socialist Web Site] [NPR] [Photo courtesy Tyler Evert/AP via Lexington Herald-Leader]