Ken Ward Jr.

Reporter

Ken Ward Jr. is a ProPublica reporter covering West Virginia. Previously, he was the longtime environmental and investigative reporter at The Charleston Gazette and Gazette-Mail. Ward worked as part of ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network in 2018 on a series about West Virginia’s natural gas industry and in 2019 and 2020 on an investigation of the business empire of the state’s governor, Jim Justice.

A West Virginia native, Ward is also co-founder of Mountain State Spotlight, a statewide nonprofit civic news organization. In 2018, he received a MacArthur Fellowship – the so-called “genius grant” – for “revealing the human and environmental toll of natural resource extraction in West Virginia and spurring greater accountability among private stakeholders.”

Ward is also three-time winner of the Scripps Howard Foundation’s Edward J. Meeman Award for Environmental Reporting. In 2000, he received the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for reporting on the environmental damage caused by mountaintop removal coal mining. In 2006, while funded by an Alicia Patterson Fellowship, he was awarded an Investigative Reporters and Editors Medal for his work investigating coal mining deaths.

Companies Owned by This Billionaire Governor Received up to $24 Million in Bailout Loans

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and his family received between $11 million and $24 million from a federal coronavirus economic relief program. His luxury resort received up to $10 million, but did not promise to retain jobs because of the loan.

An Employee at a Private Sports Club Owned by This Billionaire Governor Tested Positive for Coronavirus

After complaints alleging lax reopening practices at Gov. Jim Justice’s luxury resort, a kitchen employee has tested positive at the sports club affiliated with the hotel. Officials at the venue are scrambling to be ready for the July 4 weekend.

The Governor Urged Businesses to Reopen Safely, but a Restaurant at His Luxury Resort Didn’t, Complaints Say

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice allowed bars and restaurants to reopen in late May. Since then, a steakhouse at the luxury resort he owns has received repeated complaints for not reopening safely. A health inspector called it an “unnecessary risk.”

This Billionaire Governor’s Been Sued Over Unpaid Bills. A Judge Just Ordered Him to Pay More.

On Wednesday, another company owned by Gov. Jim Justice was ordered to pay nearly $2.8 million in a judgment over unpaid bills. The ruling comes just weeks before West Virginia’s primary election, where Justice is campaigning for a second term.

The Billionaire Governor Who’s Been Sued Dozens of Times for Millions in Unpaid Bills

Gov. Jim Justice is West Virginia’s richest man. Over the last three decades, lawsuits over unpaid bills have cost his constellation of companies more than $128 million in judgments and settlements.

See Who’s Taken Billionaire Gov. Jim Justice to Court Over Unpaid Bills

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a billionaire and the state’s richest man, has a long list of debt-collection cases. In the most complete analysis of his legal record to date, ProPublica found dozens totaling more than $128 million.

This Governor Still Guides His Billion-Dollar Business Empire, Even Though He Said He Wouldn’t

Jim Justice promised West Virginians he would focus on public service, and not his businesses, once he was elected. But he’s frequently used his power as governor to promote his own corporate entities while running the state.

Lawmakers Call for Ethics Reform to Deal With Billionaire Resort-Owning Governor

West Virginia legislators want Gov. Jim Justice to put The Greenbrier in a blind trust after a Charleston Gazette-Mail and ProPublica investigation. But the governor dismisses the report as “garbage.”

Welcome to the Greenbrier, the Governor-Owned Luxury Resort Filled With Conflicts of Interest

Gov. Jim Justice is West Virginia’s richest man and owns its most storied resort. When lobbyists and state agencies book there, he profits. Here’s how the governor, dubbed “Big Jim,” became West Virginia’s little Trump.

Fracking Companies Lost on Trespassing, but a Court Just Gave Them a Different Win

As conflicts continue between West Virginians and the state’s natural gas industry, complex legal cases are helping some residents, but not others.

Court to Big Fracking Company: Trespassing Still Exists — Even For You

In a key property rights decision, two West Virginia residents scored a rare victory from the state Supreme Court.

Large Natural Gas Producer to Pay West Virginia Plaintiffs $53.5 Million to Settle Royalty Dispute

As our investigation detailed, EQT Corp. had been accused of deducting a variety of unacceptable charges from natural gas royalty checks. The company says it wants to “turn over a new leaf” in its relationship with the state’s residents.

Powerless: What It Looks and Sounds Like When a Gas Driller Overruns Your Land

The gas rush is upending communities with traffic and noise, reshaping the way the state looks and sounds. Residents are often powerless to stop it.

He is West Virginia’s Speaker of the House — and a Lawyer for Natural Gas Companies

State ethics rules seldom prevent lawmakers from proposing or voting on legislation that affects industries they work for.

Century-Old West Virginia Leases Yield Paltry Gas Royalties. A Suit Could Cut Others’ Payouts to a Trickle, Too.

Energy giant EQT is challenging a 36-year-old law that gives residents a bigger share of natural gas profits at a time when the industry is flourishing.

West Virginia’s Natural Gas Industry Keeps Pushing to Whittle Away Payments to Residents

Companies are deducting “post-production” costs or creating shell companies to reduce royalty payments. The firms say they have done nothing wrong.

“Jobs Alliance” Backed by Coal Giant Loses Bid To Stop West Virginia Natural Gas Plant

A group backed by Murray Energy has tried to block gas plants in West Virginia. The state Supreme Court rejected arguments against one plant, saying it will help the local economy.

Another West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Declines to Step Aside in Another Natural Gas Case

A lawyer who represented new Supreme Court Justice Evan Jenkins is on the legal team representing the natural gas giant Antero. The opposing side asked Jenkins to recuse himself, but he said no.

Another Court Ruling Against a West Virginia Pipeline, Then Another Effort to Change the Rules

A federal appeals court has revoked a key approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Now, state regulators are working to change the rules — again — so it can proceed.

“Jobs Alliance,” Funded by Trump Backer, Tries to Block Gas Plants That Would Bring Jobs to West Virginia

Murray Energy, one of the nation’s largest coal producers, is paying for lawyers trying to block natural gas plants that would support a growing industry.

Follow ProPublica

Latest Stories from ProPublica