There is already one lawsuit by a federal agency against Justice’s companies, and another one appears imminent.
Justice, responding to reporters’ questions about the first lawsuit, described an unnamed political force at work.
“You know, we’re getting ready to go into an election year. You don’t really know where stuff comes from,” the governor said. “But at the end of the day, we’ll take care of our obligations. We always have and we always will.”
A federal lawsuit was filed early this month by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
That one says about two dozen companies led by Justice defaulted on 2,297 mine safety penalties over five years. The total amount is $4.7 million.
The federal agencies contend the Justice companies failed to pay or contest the penalties. The agencies contend the Justice companies also ignored repeated warnings.
“Failure to pay penalties is unfair to miners who deserve safe workplaces, and to mine operators who play by the rules,” stated David Zatezalo, assistant secretary of Labor for the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
In the other case, Justice companies have gone ahead and sued the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.
That was in anticipation that the Office of Surface Mining was already poised to file suit against the Justice companies.
The lawsuit filed by the Justice companies contends the two parties had agreed to settle fines, reclamation fees and penalties when OSM suddenly started playing hardball.
“The abrupt turnaround by the government in its attitude toward this matter is inexplicable and raises the question whether untoward political or other pressure from sources presently unknown has been brought to bear on OSMRE, perhaps from other federal agencies or political adversaries of the Justice family,” the lawsuit states.
The filings make it clear that OSM and the U.S. Department of Justice have been poised to sue the Justice companies.
“I understand from discussions with your office last week that the filing of one or more complaints is imminent,” wrote Mike Carey, a lawyer for the Justice companies. “This is of grave concern and bewilderment to my clients.”
1. Federal subpoenas