Federal government sues Eastern Kentucky coal company for unpaid fines

The federal government on Friday sued an Eastern Kentucky coal company to try to collect more than $300,000 in unpaid fines for health and safety violations.

Viper Coal LLC owed $318,981 in unpaid fines as of September 2011, according to the complaint filed in federal court in Pikeville.

The lawsuit seeks that amount, plus more than $122,000 in other fees and interest.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration issued more than 250 citations and orders to the company between January 2008 and August 2011, and has sent more than 20 letters demanding payment of the resulting fines, according to the lawsuit.

Federal records show Viper has underground mines in Floyd and Pike counties.