Coal Tattoo

‘One of the good coal operators’

Jim Justice

Last week, after U.S. District Judge Irene Berger sentenced Don Blankenship to the maximum penalty allowed by law — one year in jail and a $250,000 fine — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Justice had little to say about the historic events of the day. His campaign spokesman issued this statement:

What’s important today are the feelings of the families who lost loved ones. I hope all of the families have the opportunity to be heard on whether or not they feel justice was served.

But it sounds like Justice has decided to add to those comments, at least according to this story from WOAY:

I think we spent an ungodly amount of money within our state to probably keep Booth Goodwin in the limelight and end up with a misdemeanor charge. If that’s all we are going to end up with, why did we spend that much money to do that?

This comes a day after Justice’s gubernatorial campaign was touting a new campaign ad in which United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts — in what seemed like quite an awkward phrase — called Justice “one of the good coal operators.”

Roberts went on to say that Justice has an “excellent safety record.”

Readers may recall that Justice’s habit of not paying his fines for federal safety and health violations was highlighted in the great work that NPR and Mine Safety and Health News did about that huge problem. NPR’s Howard Berkes explained it this way in November 2014:

Among the mining executives that NPR investigated, one coal mine owner in West Virginia stands out. His mines owe nearly $2 million in overdue fines, while he, himself, is a prominent billionaire.

Howard went on to explain:

Overall, all the Justice mines combined, delinquent and non-delinquent, had a better injury rate than the national average last year, and they’ve sharply cut their violations rate, according to NPR’s analysis.

But the delinquent mines haven’t done as well. Their injury rate for the last five years is more than twice the average rate, according to a review of federal data.

And let’s not forget this, as reported by the Courier-Journal in Louisville in 2012:

Don Blankenship, the controversial former chief executive of Massey Energy, was part of Gov. Steve Beshear’s Derby Day entourage this year.

Blankenship was aboard the CSX train that took Beshear, other top state officials and guests from Frankfort to Louisville and back on Derby Day, state records show. And his name is on a list of people invited to Beshear’s Derby Eve Gala at the Governor’s Mansion.

Richardson said Blankenship was the Derby weekend guest of two West Virginia businessmen who were invited to Beshear’s private Derby activities — James Justice II and his son, James Justice III.