West Virginia’s top mine safety delinquent is also its new governor.
Jim Justice, a billionaire coal magnate whose mining operations reportedly owe $15 million in safety violations and a wide variety of taxes across six different states, beat out the Republican candidate Bill Cole for the West Virginia governor’s seat.
Justice, who switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in advance of the race, owns the largest privately held coal company east of the Mississippi. He ran on a platform of creating jobs by expanding the state’s fossil fuel industries.
His election is good news for the battered coal industry (though not for coal miners’ safety). But it’s another story for the planet: Justice has yet to be convinced that this whole climate change thing is happening.
“Until we have really accurate data to prove [climate change], I don’t think we need to blow our legs off on a concept,” he told the West Virginia Register-Herald earlier this year. “I welcome the discussion, but I don’t know. I just don’t know.”
Justice’s mines have been cited for over 250 environmental violations.