CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — A company owned by the family of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has been ordered to pay nearly $1 million in fines.
The Justice family businesses include a plant known as Bluestone Coke in Birmingham, Alabama, for which the Jefferson County Alabama Board of Health has issued a $925,000 fine for causing severe air pollution.
The plant produces coke, which is a by-product of coal used in making steel.
For years, neighbors of the Alabama plant complained about air pollution, health problems and black powder residue on their homes. In late 2021, the health department did not renew the plant’s operating permit and the facility was closed.
“You know, in all of that, it’s old. It’s really, really, really, really, really old. And so the plant, they tried to operate it for a while and everything. The plant was on its last legs, and the plant had to be shut down,” said Gov. Justice.
Justice added, “I think there was some lingering, I guess is the right word, you know, environmental issues that they’re all over. They’ve now settled those environmental issues and they’re doing whatever has to be done.”
Half of the fines are being designated for community improvement projects such as helping people repair damaged homes. It’s possible the plant could seek a permit to reopen, but experts say that’s a very expensive and lengthy process that may not be worth the investment in the facility.
Gov. Justice said he believes his son, Jay, purchased the plant about five to eight years ago. Justice said he turned the daily operation of all his companies over to his son and daughter when he was elected governor.