ROANOKE, Va. — Nine companies owned by Gov. Jim Justice and his family that are defendants in a lawsuit filed by the United States government in May continue to argue they should not be part of a lawsuit filed in Virginia.
Double Bonus Coal Company, Dynamic Energy Inc., Frontier Coal Company, Justice Energy Company Inc., Justice Highwall Mining Inc., Keystone Services Industries Inc., M&P Services Inc., Nufac Mining Company Inc, and Pay Car Mining Company Inc. filed a reply in support of their motion to dismiss July 30 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of West Virginia
"In its Response to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, the Plaintiff asserts that the Movants and their attorneys have misled the Court through factual assertions made in their Memorandum of Law in support of the Motion to Dismiss. This is simply false," the reply states. "The only Defendant entities that moved to dismiss the Complaint are those entities which are subsidiaries of Bluestone Resources, Inc. All other Defendants answered the Complaint."
The nine companies claim they have never alleged that they have "no ties" to the Western District of Virginia and the government’s characterization to the contrary is misleading.
The companies allege that in weighing the factors a court considers in determining whether personal jurisdiction exists, there is a lack of sufficient minimum contacts for personal jurisdiction to rest with this court, according to the reply.
The companies believe they should be dismissed from the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.
"The Movants cannot reasonably be expected to be brought into Court in Virginia based on civil penalties assessed under the Mine Act for mining activity that occurred outside of Virginia," the reply states. "This cause of action directly stems from the Movants mining activity in West Virginia and the assessment of civil penalties related to that mining activity. Therefore, the Virginia long-arm statute does not reach the Movants alleged conduct and the specific jurisdiction inquiry should end there."
The companies sought to be dismissed from the complaint on July 9. The United States replied to the motion to dismiss on July 23, arguing that the Federal Debt Collection Procedures Act creates a nationwide jurisdiction to enforce debts owed to the federal government.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia on May 7, alleged that between May 3, 2014, and May 3, 2019, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued 2,297 citations to 23 mines for violation of the Mine Health and Safety Act.
The defendants failed to pay the $3,954,984.37 in penalties and did not even notify MSHA that it contested the assessed civil penalties, according to the suit.
The government claims when the defendants failed to pay the civil penalties for 100 days—despite two demand letters—MSHA referred the civil penalties to the Department of Treasury for collection.
The Department of Treasury then made another written demand on the defendants, but they still failed to pay, and the Department of Treasury referred the civil penalties to the Department of Justice for collection.
On Sept. 5, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia made a written demand on the defendants for the delinquent debts and the defendants still failed to pay the penalties.
An additional $821,386.03 was added to the original penalties in administrative costs and interest.
The 23 defendants are: Southern Coal Corporation; Justice Coal of Alabama; A&G Coal Corporation; Black River Coal; Chestnut Land Holdings; Double Bonus Coal Company; Dynamic Energy; Four Star Resources; Frontier Coal Company; Infinity Energy; Justice Energy Company; Justice Highwall Mining; Kentucky Fuel Corporation; Keystone Service Industries; M&P Services; Nine Mile Mining; Nufac Mining Company; Pay Car Mining; Premium Coal Company; S and H Mining; Sequoia Energy; Tams Management; and Virginia Fuel Corporation.
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia Case number: 7:19-cv-00354