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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Virginia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 1, 2020

United States Announces Civil Settlement to Collect All Debts Owed by Justice Entities for Violations of Federal Mine Safety Act

Roanoke, VIRGINIA – United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen and Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) David G. Zatezalo, announced today a settlement between the United States and a group of 24 coal companies operating in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky to satisfy more than $5 million in unpaid penalties for violations of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act.

In May 2019, the United States filed a civil action to collect debts owed against 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.

According to the United States’ civil complaint, between May 3, 2014, and May 3, 2019, MSHA collectively issued at least 2,297 citations to the defendant mine operators for violations of the Mine Safety and Health Act, and at the appropriate time, assessed civil penalties for each violation, pursuant to the law.

The defendants failed to pay the penalties, even after MSHA sent multiple demand letters.  MSHA then referred the civil penalties to the Department of Treasury for collection. The Department of Treasury 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 September 5, 2018, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia made a written demand on the defendants for the delinquent debts. The defendants, however, still failed to pay the outstanding debts, and on May 7, 2019, the United States filed a civil complaint to collect the unpaid debts.

Today, the 23 named defendants agreed to pay the full amounts of the assessed civil penalties, plus interest and penalties. In total, the defendants will pay $4,065,578.29 to satisfy the debts identified in the United States’ May 2019 complaint. Additionally, the defendants and related company Bluestone Coal Corporation agreed to pay an additional $1,064,547.18 to get current on their other unpaid, Mine Safety and Health Act penalties that were not included in the United States’ May 2019 complaint.

“Thanks to the hard work and persistence of career attorneys from our civil division and the MSHA, the 24 Justice entities have agreed to pay, in full, all outstanding debts and penalties associated with their mine-safety violations,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today.  “It is our hope that this landmark collection action and settlement agreement sends a clear message that the Department of Justice will aggressively pursue mine-safety violations and hold owners and operators accountable.”    

“Ensuring that mine operators pay their penalties for violating mine safety and health laws is an important part of protecting miners’ safety and health, and that means holding them accountable if they fail to pay fines,” said MSHA Assistant Secretary David G. Zatezalo. “I thank my colleagues at the Departments of Treasury and Justice for their support in reaching this historic settlement.”   

Executive Assistant United States Attorney Laura Day Rottenborn, Assistant United States Attorney Krista Consiglio Frith, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Jason Grover, an attorney with the Department of Labor, are representing the United States in these matters.

Updated April 1, 2020