The real issue will be whether or not he is able to buy his way out of this....
Don Blankenship, the longtime chief executive of Massey Energy, was indicted today on charges that he violated federal mine safety laws at the company’s Upper Big Branch Mine prior to an April 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners.
A federal grand jury in Charleston charged Blankenship with conspiring to cause routine and willful violations of mandatory federal mine safety and health standards at Upper Big Branch during a period from Jan. 1, 2008, to April 9, 2010, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said.
The four-count indictment, filed in U.S. District Court, also alleges Blankenship was part of a conspiracy to cover up mine safety violations and hinder federal enforcement efforts by providing advance warning of government inspections. The indictment also alleges that, after the explosion, Blankenship made false statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission about Massey’s safety practices prior to the explosion.
“Blankenship knew that UBB was committing hundreds of safety-law violations every year and that he had the ability to prevent most of the violations that UBB was committing,” the indictment states. “Yet he fostered and participated in an understanding that perpetuated UBB’s practice of routine safety violations, in order to produce more coal, avoid the costs of following safety laws, and make more money.”
The four counts charged carry a maximum combined penalty of 31 years’ imprisonment, Goodwin said in a prepared statement. Goodwin declined to comment beyond the prepared statement.
The indictment comes after a more than four-year investigation that began following the mine disaster on April 5, 2010, but expanded to examine a troubled safety record that critics have long argued put coal production and profits ahead of worker protections.