Thursday, July 31, 2014

Coal company facing 266 violations; billionaire owner tight with governor of Ky., site of 129

The billionaire owner of coal mines in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia and Alabama is facing at least 266 pending coal mining violations, including 129 in Kentucky, a state where he has contributed $400,000 to Gov. Steve Beshear's political causes since early 2011, Tom Loftus and Jim Bruggers report for The Courier-Journal in Louisville. (Forbes photo: Jim Justice)

Alleged violations in Kentucky against Jim Justice, owner of The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, "include failing to submit water monitoring reports, failing to live up to promises after previous enforcement actions, failing to pay fines and failing to meet requirements for reclaiming mined land, including eliminating highwalls," Loftus and Bruggers write. "Civil penalties owed by Justice companies in Kentucky increased to $2 million from $1.6 million between April and June."

Natural Resources Commissioner Steve Hohmann informed Justice that five of his companies in Eastern Kentucky would be stopped form mining, effective June 30, but the suspensions were suspended until Aug. 11, with no reason given publicly for the decision, Loftus and Bruggers write.

Justice and his family gave $50,000 to the Kentucky Democratic Party in April 2011, then $121,600 to the Democratic National Committee later that year "at a time when the DNC was transferring large amounts to the Kentucky Democratic Party during Beshear's 2011 re-election campaign," Loftus and Bruggers write. They also "gave $100,000 to the committee that paid for Beshear's 2011 inauguration festivities. And since then, the Justices have given at least $140,000 to the Kentucky Democratic Party — the most recent $40,000 contributed on June 27 — the day after Hohmann's letter suspending Justice mining permits, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission."

"Besides the contributions, Beshear was among the dignitaries Justice invited to help cut the ribbon at the 2010 opening of the casino at The Greenbrier," Loftus and Bruggers write. "And, at Justice's invitation, Beshear played in the pro-am golf event at The Greenbrier Classic in 2012 and 2013." (Read more)

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