Wednesday, March 30, 2016

US mining baron to be sentenced

Donald L. Blankenship, former Massey Energy CEO, was found guilty of a misdemeanor conspiracy to violate mine safety laws in December. An explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch (UBB) Mine in southern West Virginia killed 29 men in 2010. Prosecutors stated that he made a "cold-blooded decision to gamble with the lives of the men and women who worked for him."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby explained:
 “The United States knows of no other case in which a major company's CEO has been convicted of a crime against worker-protection laws. But compare this crime to others seen more regularly. Which is worse: a poor, uneducated young man who sells drugs because he sees no other opportunity, or a multimillionaire executive, at the pinnacle of his power, who decides to subject his workers to a daily game of Russian roulette? Which is worse: that young man carrying a gun during a single drug deal—a crime that will earn him a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence—or a CEO jeopardizing the lives of hundreds, day after day? Which is worse: stealing money or trampling on laws that protect human life? In each case, to ask the question is to answer it. Under any fair assessment, only a sentence of many years in prison could truly reflect the seriousness of Defendant’s crime and provide just punishment, which the law requires the court to do… It shocks the conscience that in the 21st century, knowing all that has been learned from decades of grief in our nation's mines, the CEO of a major coal company would willfully conspire against the laws that protect his workers' lives. One struggles for words to describe the inhumanity required for a mogul like Defendant to send working men and women into needless, mortal jeopardy for no purpose other than to pile up more money.”

Federal law says that willfully violating mine safety and health standards is worth, at most, a year in prison.

Robert Weissman, president of the watchdog group Public Citizen, agreed in a statement issued Tuesday:
“For decades, coal company executives have ruthlessly endangered the lives of coal miners, disregarding the law and sure they could escape, at worst, with slap-on-the-wrist penalties. It’s long past time for that era to be put to rest; doing so requires putting coal company executives in jail for their crimes. That is why it is so important that the notorious Don Blankenship be given the maximum jail time for his conspiracy conviction”

What SOYMB said at the time

1 comment:

ajohnstone said...

Don Blankenship, Massey Energy’s former CEO, has been sentenced to a year in prison and a year’s probation, with a federal judge saying his participation in a “dangerous conspiracy” had led to the deadliest US coal mine explosion in 40 years
It also included a $250,000 fine which pales into insignificance compared with $12 million he received upon retirement.

“By putting profits of the company ahead of the safety of your miners, you, Mr. Blankenship, created a culture of non-compliance at Upper Big Branch,” Judge Berger said. During the investigation, the Mine Safety and Health Administration found that a company culture favoring production over safety had contributed to the dangerous conditions that led to the coal dust explosion. Investigators found more than 1,100 flagrant safety violations at the mine, including improper ventilation of methane and poor escape routes. During the year preceding the explosion, Federal regulators had to order the closure of portions of the mine 60 times. The FBI even launched an investigation to find out whether the federal officials responsible for ensuring compliance with mining industry regulations had been bribed by Massey Energy.