West Virginia governor’s company cited in coal mining death

Gov. Jim Justice delivers his first State of the State speech on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2017, in Charleston, WV. CREDIT: AP Photo/Walter Scriptunas II

A mining operation owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (D) was cited for six safety violations following the death of a worker in February, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

West Virginia inspectors cited Justice Low Seam Mining Inc. with violations discovered at the JC “Jim” Justice II Prep Plant, including one violation that will draw a “special assessment” penalty. Investigators were looking into the plant after Jason Kenneth Matthews, who had worked at the plant for about three months, fell onto a conveyor belt and then into a coal-waste bin. Matthews died from his injuries.

The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training issued two violations to Justice’s company for failing to implement a comprehensive mine safety program, and two more for failing to ensure that workers wore harnesses and that ladders were properly secured. A fifth violation was issued because the company failed to report the full details of the incident to the state within 24 hours. The sixth violation, drawing the special assessment penalty, was issued because the employer failed to ensure that repairs are not performed on equipment until it is completely powered off. According to the incident report, the power on the conveyor belt was on during the time of the fatal incident.

These recent safety violations are not the first time Justice’s mines have been cited — his mines have been cited 3,657 times by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. According to an NPR investigation, Justice’s mines also have worse-than-average safety records, with 147 injuries occurring at his mines in recent years. The same NPR investigation found that Justice’s mining companies owe $15 million in six states in unpaid taxes and mine safety penalties.

Penalties for mine safety violations can range from $5,000 to $10,000 in the state of West Virginia, with higher fines usually levied in the event of a worker death.

According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Justice was listed as the controller of the mine at the time of the accident, but that title has since been switched to his daughter and son.

Justice is the richest man in West Virginia, with assets in coal, timber, and tourism. Despite running as a Democrat, he touted his friendship with now-President Donald Trump during the election and told West Virginia residents that he would not vote for Hillary Clinton. Justice also denies the scientific consensus on climate change, telling the Register-Herald, “I believe there’s an awful lot of scientists that say, ‘no, no, no, this is just smoke and mirrors.’”

There is an extremely broad consensus among climate scientists that climate change is both happening and is primarily a result of human activity.