Coal mining companies owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and his family have agreed to pay the government more than $5 million in delinquent mine safety fines, the Justice Department says.
A 2014 joint investigation by NPR and Mine Safety and Health News found that companies linked to the governor were among 2,700 mining companies that had failed to pay nearly $70 million in delinquent penalties to the government. The investigation also found that mines that don't pay their safety fines are more dangerous than those that do.
NPR used data provided by the Mine Safety and Health Administration to analyze delinquent fine records and continued to review the data into 2017, until the agency stopped providing it. NPR and correspondent Howard Berkes sued MSHA under the federal Freedom of Information Act in 2018, leading to additional data releases.
The government's settlement with the Justice companies includes fines, interest and penalties for more than 2,000 alleged violations of mine safety regulations over five years, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia.
The federal government sued the companies last year after several attempts to collect the delinquent fines.
The settlement covers 24 companies across five states — Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.
You can read NPR's full investigation into delinquent mines here.