Monday, October 12, 2015

Billionaire coal owner running for W.Va. governor owes $3.5M in delinquent property taxes in Ky.

Southern Coal billionaire owner Jim Justice, who announced in May he was running for governor of West Virginia, still owes "$3.5 million in delinquent property taxes in Eastern Kentucky, shortchanging schools and other public agencies at a time many are struggling," Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. In 2014, Southern Coal faced 266 violations at coal mines in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia and Alabama. (Associated Press photo)

"The companies controlled by Jim Justice have delinquent taxes on mining equipment, land or coal reserves—or all three in some cases—in Pike, Floyd, Knott, Harlan, Magoffin and Breathitt counties, tax records show," Estep writes. While Jay Justice, the son of Jim Justice and an executive of a coal company controlled by his father, "said he understood the companies have agreements in place to pay the back taxes . . . officials in Pike and Harlan counties said no such payment plans were in place as of Oct. 8."

"Hundreds of mines in the region have closed since 2011 because of a combination of factors, including competition from cheap natural gas; cheaper coal from other U.S. regions; tougher rules to protect air and water quality; and the depletion of thicker coal seams after more than a century of mining," Estep writes. "The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration lists Justice as the controller of 158 surface or underground mines and related facilities, such as coal-preparation plants, in several states. However, nearly all of Justice's mines are listed as temporarily idled, non-producing or abandoned."

"Still, Justice—who has some of the largest delinquent tax bills among coal companies in Eastern Kentucky—has resources many coal operators do not," Estep writes. "When Jim Justice announced in May he would run for governor in 2016 as a Democrat, his estimated net worth was reportedly $1.6 billion, a fortune he amassed in coal mining, agriculture and timber." (Read more)

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