Willie Dodson, Central Appalachian Field Coordinator
A new report by Appalachian Voices estimates that there is enough outstanding reclamation liability on coal mines owned by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and/or his adult children to employ 220 to 460 workers for five years. Based on data provided by state and federal regulators, the report found that nearly 34,000 acres of Justice-family mines across Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia are in need of some degree of environmental cleanup, with more than a third lacking any reclamation work at all.
Throughout his political career, Justice has declared his support for miners’ livelihoods, but companies owned by the Justice family have frequently been at odds with regulators over failures to complete required reclamation in a timely manner. Just last month, regulators in Kentucky moved to revoke five Justice-company mining permits, and asked a judge to require the West Virginia governor, his son, and seven of their companies to turn over nearly $3 million in past fines, after failing to reclaim several Eastern Kentucky mines in accordance with the terms of a 2019 agreement. On a state-by-state basis, the report enumerates the potential employment that is lost to the region as a result of these failures.
“For more than a decade now, we’ve been tracking the persistent failures of Justice-family companies to reclaim their mines in an acceptable time frame. Every day that the Justices dodge their obligations is another day that some miner, or many miners, could be working to reclaim the land,” said Willie Dodson, Central Appalachian field coordinator for Appalachian Voices.
The report, Reclaiming Justice Family-owned Coal Mines Could Create Hundreds of Jobs Across Appalachia, was authored by Willie Dodson, Central Appalachian field coordinator for Appalachian Voices. The research and analysis behind the report mirrored that of an earlier paper, Repairing the Damage: The cost of delaying reclamation at modern-era mines, which was written and researched by Erin Savage, senior program manager at Appalachian Voices, who also contributed to the new report.
Appalachian Voices is a leading nonprofit advocate for a healthy environment and just economy in the Appalachian region, and a driving force in America’s shift from fossil fuels to a clean energy future.