Curtis Tate Published

Justice Coal Companies Must Pay $2.5 Million In Penalties, Court Rules

Gov. Jim Justice clenches his fists before signing bills at the John Amos power plant, with his English bulldog, Babydog, sitting in a chair next to him.
Gov. Jim Justice speaks to workers at the John Amos Power Plant, accompanied by Babydog.
Curtis Tate/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A federal appeals court in Virginia says two coal companies owned by Gov. Jim Justice must pay millions of dollars in penalties.

A three-judge panel on the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, ruled that Southern Coal and Premium Coal must pay more than $2.5 million to resolve Clean Water Act violations in multiple states.

A lower court found that the companies, owned by the Justice family, were in violation of a 2016 consent decree to resolve nearly 24,000 water pollution violations.

In 2020, the U.S. Justice Department issued a notice of default and took the companies to court.

Southern and Premium appealed a 2021 district court ruling that upheld the consent decree.

The consent decree covered violations in five states: West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama. Four of those states joined the Justice Department’s 2016 case. 

Only West Virginia did not.