Despite Promises to Pay, West Virginia Governor's Family Still Owes Millions in Mining Violations

April 11, 2019 AT 7:06 AM

By Alexandra Kanik and Brittany Patterson

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice promised to wipe out his family's debt from mine safety violations when he ran for governor in 2016. Instead, that debt has more than doubled since NPR first reported on it in 2014, amounting to millions of dollars.

"We'll absolutely ... make sure that every one of [the debts] is taken care of," Justice said at a news conference announcing his campaign for governor.

The Justice companies owe more than $4 million to the federal government, according to a new Ohio Valley ReSource analysis of federal data. That's the highest delinquent mine safety debt in the U.S. mining industry — and those unpaid violations have been a chronic problem for the Justice family for years, despite many promises to pay.

In 2014, an NPR investigation showed Justice companies owed just under $2 million in delinquent federal mine safety penalties, which are levied by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Two years later, when Jim Justice was running for governor, the companies' debt had climbed to $2.6 million, according to a follow-up NPR investigation.

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