WV Press Staff Report
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s coal companies have resolved their delinquent West Virginia state taxes and the Governor said payment of delinquent taxes in Virginia and Kentucky should come soon.
Justice made the announcement Monday afternoon during a press conference at the State Capitol.
In making the announcements, Justice was joined by Department of Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy, Deputy Secretary Allen Prunty, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton and others.
Hardy and Prunty said Justice’s companies had completely and totally satisfied the delinquent taxes bills and that the state would be removing all assessments and liens from the Justice coal properties within days.
However, the Department of Revenue officials said state code prohibited them from detailing how the amount paid or detailing if any tax settlement occurred.
Media reports had Justice’s tax bills at more than $15 million in six states with fines and penalties increasing annually.
Justice said he could have saved “ hundreds of millions” by allowing Bluestone and other coal operations to go bankrupt in 2013 after he had purchased them back from a Russian company that had bought them from the Justice family several years early.
“That would have been the smart thing to do … but I didn’t believe in that,” Justice said of taking the bankruptcy option, adding that too many people in West Virginia would have been hurt financially by that option.
Justice said the Russian company was at the point of closing the Bluestone operations when he re-purchased the coal companies in 2013.
While not offering details, Prunty told the media gathered for the press conference that the “Russians left a bit of a mess behind” in terms of taxes.
Prunty and Caperton said Justice has been working to resolve the issues since 2013.
“Today’s a good day for me,” Justice said.
Justice said he would not file bankruptcy when “things got really tough” because his father had hired the miners working at the Bluestone mines.
“That meant something to me,” Justice said.
“I believe in coal mining and coal,” Justice said. “… I believed what I told you in the primary. Severance taxes and coal would come back.”
Justice said the effort to pay the taxes has “stretched our company beyond belief.”
“It made it tough. Beyond touch,” he said, noting that residents would yell, “Why don’t you pay your taxes!”
Justice credited his son Jay Justice with working with the state tax office to resolve the issues. “I can’t be more proud today of the story of Bluestone Coal.”
Caperton spoke first about his friendship with Governor Justice. “I think it’s time everybody stop throwing stones. Everything he has said he would do he has done.”