Ken Ward Jr.
ProPublica Distinguished Fellow
Ken Ward Jr. is a Distinguished Fellow in ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network. 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.
The state’s program for reclaiming abandoned coal mines has long been plagued with problems, but state and federal officials have done little to prepare for this reckoning.
The lawsuit, filed by the Justice Department, seeks millions in unpaid environmental fines as Gov. Jim Justice begins his campaign for the U.S. Senate.
As Big Jim hopes to take on Sen. Joe Manchin, Justice’s family businesses face allegations of unpaid debts, overdue environmental fines and conflicts of interest.
Using data from Kentucky and West Virginia environmental regulators, ProPublica and Mountain State Spotlight found that mines that have gone through multiple bankruptcies in the past decade had a higher median number of environmental violations than nonbankrupt mines.
Jeff Hoops built Blackjewel into the nation’s sixth largest coal company by acquiring bankrupt mines. When it declared bankruptcy, he pivoted to other ventures, leaving polluted streams and mud-shrouded roads in his wake.
To accommodate the West Virginia senator, Democratic leadership agreed to legislation streamlining permits for the often-stalled Mountain Valley Pipeline and removing jurisdiction from a court that keeps ruling against the project.
One of the most dangerous chemical plants in America sits in one of West Virginia’s only majority-Black communities. For decades, residents of Institute have raised alarms about air pollution. They say concerns have “fallen on deaf ears.”
IRS records reveal how Gov. Jim Justice, Gov. Jared Polis, former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other wealthy political figures slashed their taxes using strategies unavailable to most of their constituents.
Charlotte Lane was a top lobbyist for utility companies. Now she regulates them. A little-known law she previously pushed has allowed them to charge West Virginians for expensive pipeline projects with little oversight and few consumer protections.
The richest person in West Virginia, who is also the state’s governor, owns coal companies that routinely violate environmental laws. Latest filings say the companies owe over $3 million for not complying with a major water pollution settlement.
Federal regulators and West Virginia agencies are rewriting environmental rules again to pave the way for construction of a major natural gas pipeline across Appalachia, even after an appeals court blocked the pipeline for the second time.
Gov. Jim Justice's Bluestone Coal Corp. will stop violating water pollution rules, according to a settlement. The company benefited from actions by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, whose secretary Justice appointed.
The coal industry continues to decline. Natural gas isn’t bringing the prosperity it promised, and now the pandemic has wrecked the state’s economy.
A company owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice agreed to a $4.4 million settlement over missed coal shipments. ProPublica previously reported that Justice’s businesses were sued dozens of times for millions in unpaid bills.
West Virginia environmental regulators are proposing fine reductions for water pollution violations from a coal company owned by Gov. Jim Justice, even after the company promised to clean up its mines.
Similar to President Donald Trump, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has been particularly aggressive at forcing out top officials, including most recently the state’s top public health officer, faulting others when things go wrong.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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