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  1. #1
    Guest Member S Landreth's Avatar
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    West Virginia Mine Explosion: 6 Dead, 21 Missing

    West Virginia Mine Explosion: 6 Dead, 21 Missing


    An explosion at a West Virigina coal mine owned by Massey Energy at 4:30 this afternoon left six miners dead and 21 missing. From Ken Ward at the West Virginia Gazette:
    A large number of West Virginia coal miners are feared dead or missing this evening following an explosion this afternoon at a Massey Energy underground mine in Raleigh County.
    Emergency crews are still responding this evening to the incident, which initial reports indicate occurred at about 3 p.m.
    Agency director Ron Wooten said his agency is still assessing the incident, which occurred at Massey subsidiary Performance Coal’s Upper Big Branch Mine-South near Namoa.
    “We have received information that there are several unaccounted for, perhaps as many as 21,” Wooten said in a phone interview. “We have received a report that there are six fatalities.”
    Ward also reports that the mine, which employs 200 people, has a poor safety record.
    In seven of the last 10 years, the mine has recorded a non-fatal injury rate worse than the national average for similar operations, according to MSHA statistics.
    One miner was killed at the operation in a July 2003 electrical accident and another in a March 2001 roof fall, according to MSHA records


    link: West Virginia Mine Explosion: 6 Dead, 21 Missing | Work in Progress
    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

  2. #2
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    West Virginia mine explosion


  3. #3
    Guest Member S Landreth's Avatar
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    MONTCOAL, W.Va. - An explosion at a coal mine with a history of safety problems killed 25 workers and at least four others were missing early Tuesday more than 1,000 feet underground. It was the worst U.S. mine disaster since 1984.

    25 dead in W. Va. coal mine blast - Life- msnbc.com

  4. #4
    Guest Member S Landreth's Avatar
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    Another asshole,…….disregarding safety regulations for a higher profit margin. Fvck those peons and their families.


    Don Blankenship is CEO of Massey Energy, the owner of the Upper Big Branch mine that exploded yesterday, killing at least 25 miners with four still missing in the mine. Blankenship is well known as a right-wing crackpot and global warming denier, but I want to paint just a brief picture with regard to this disaster. I’ll start with Rolling Stone’s description of Don Blankenship:

    The country’s highest-paid coal executive, Blankenship is a villain ripped straight from the comic books: a jowly, mustache-sporting, union-busting coal baron who uses his fortune to bend politics to his will. He recently financed a $3.5 million campaign to oust a state Supreme Court justice who frequently ruled against his company, and he hung out on the French Riviera with another judge who was weighing an appeal by Massey. “Don Blankenship would actually be less powerful if he were in elected office,” Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia once observed. “He would be twice as accountable and half as feared.”

    In late 2005, Blankenship issued a memo to company employees instructing supervisers to “ignore” any directive except to “run coal,” because “coal pays the bills.” That apparently included safety measures to protect the workers who help Blankenship “pay the bills.” This amazing graph from Brad Johnson at Think Progress shows that Blankenship’s employees got the memo. Violations skyrocketed at Massey mines, but most notably at the Upper Big Branch Mine as illustrated below.

    Below and more to the story: http://workinprogress.firedoglake.com/2010/04/06/who-is-don-blankenship/

  5. #5
    Pronce. PH said so AGAIN!
    slackula's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by S Landreth
    Violations skyrocketed at Massey mines, but most notably at the Upper Big Branch Mine as illustrated below.
    But but but the government should get out of the way and let companies police themselves!

  6. #6
    Guest Member S Landreth's Avatar
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    Nice eulogy except for the cut in about 7:38 into the video.





  7. #7
    Guest Member S Landreth's Avatar
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    We shouldn’t judge, yet. But……………….

    NPR News has learned that the Mine Safety and Health Administration is one subject of a federal criminal investigation surrounding the explosion of the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia three weeks ago -- a disaster that killed 29 miners. The probe also looks at Massey Energy, the owner of the mine.

    Sources familiar with the investigation say the FBI is looking into possible bribery of employees of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency that inspects and regulates mining. The sources say FBI agents are also exploring potential criminal negligence on the part of Massey Energy, the owner of the Upper Big Branch mine.

    Source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2010/04/fbi_probing_fed_officials_and.html

  8. #8
    Guest Member S Landreth's Avatar
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    some news about Blankenship,.........


    It appears as though Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, in whose coal mine 29 people died earlier this year in an entirely preventable disaster, has been booted from the Board of Directors of the US Chamber of Commerce.

    As recently as June 29, Massey was listed as a member of the Chamber’s Board. But now, his name doesn’t appear on the list of current board members, and his specific profile page has been deleted from the website.

    Blankenship’s bio on Massey Energy’s website still says he is a director of the Chamber. I requested comment from the Chamber of Commerce to confirm, but they have not responded at this time. Massey Energy also has not replied to my request for confirmation.

    Besides sacrificing the lives of his employees for profit, Blankenship is primarily known for his rabid denial of climate change, in addition to his blind defense of corporations. (He once said that safety regulators were “as silly as global warming.”)

    Ideologically, Blankenship is right in line with the Chamber of Commerce. As a member of the Board of Directors, Blankenship had a hand in directing the chamber’s finances, political expenditures, and campaigns. Last year, while prominent brand names left the Chamber of Commerce in droves due to the corporate group’s war against climate change legislation, Blankenship wrote an op-ed to defend the Chamber’s position.

    But if it’s true that Blankenship got the boot from the Chamber’s Board, as the evidence online suggests, it appears the Chamber of Commerce drew a line: yes to denying the reality of climate change, no to killing your employees. It’s a step, I guess.


    Fuckin’ Asshole

  9. #9
    Guest Member S Landreth's Avatar
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    some more news,.........

    More than 1,400 samples collected inside West Virginia's Upper Big Branch mine show excessive amounts of coal dust were present before an explosion killed 29 miners, a federal official said today.

    A majority of the samples came from areas affected by the April 5 explosion, but show only that coal dust played a role in the blast, Mine Safety and Health Administration official Kevin Stricklin said during a conference call with reporters.

    "It's going to be fair to say that coal dust played a role," Stricklin said. "We just aren't in a position to say how big of a role."

    The findings bolster MSHA's preliminary findings issued 10 days after the explosion that a mix of methane and coal dust were responsible for the blast. Federal law requires coal mines to coat coal dust with pulverized stone or other inert material to prevent and contain explosions.

    The explosion was the deadliest at a U.S. coal mine since 1970 and is now the subject of civil and criminal investigations.

    Rest of the story: Excessive coal dust found at Massey mine, U.S. says | Richmond Times-Dispatch

  10. #10
    Guest Member S Landreth's Avatar
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    some good news:

    Federal safety officials took the unprecedented step of seeking a court injunction to shut a Massey Energy Co. coal mine that had hundreds of safety violations, saying the mine was unsafe to operate.

    Richmond-based Massey has been the focus of greater regulatory oversight following the April accident that killed 29 workers at its Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va., in the worst coal-mining accident in 40 years.

    The Labor Department filed a preliminary injunction Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky to close Massey's Freedom Mine No. 1 in Pike County, Ky., until safety hazards are addressed.

    Federal officials say they issued nearly 2,000 citations between July 2008 and June 2010 for safety violations at the mine. They also noted that six major roof falls had occurred since August, 2010 at the mine, which employs about 130 miners. "If the court does not step in someone may be seriously injured or die," said Joseph A. Main, head of the agency.

    "Massey does not believe the mine is unsafe," the company said in a statement. Massey said the large, older mine has struggled to comply with newer federal safety standards. It is considering idling the mine until it can meet those standards, Massey added.

    Rest of the story:U.S. Seeks to Shut Massey Mine in Kentucky - WSJ.com

  11. #11
    Guest Member S Landreth's Avatar
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    Massey official charged with lying to FBI in mine investigation

    The security chief of Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine was arrested Monday and charged with obstructing the investigation into last year's explosion that killed 29 miners, the first criminal charges stemming from the worst U.S. mining disaster in 40 years.

    Hughie Elbert Stover, who also headed security at two other Massey operations, was indicted last week by a federal grand jury in West Virginia on charges of lying to the FBI and trying to dispose of key documents. The indictment was unsealed Monday.

    Stover provided personal security for former Massey chief executive Don L. Blankenship, who retired in December, according to sources familiar with the federal and state investigations into the mine accident. "He was very very close to Blankenship,'' said one source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe is continuing. "He would drive Blankenship places. He called him 'Mr. B.' ''

    The indictment offers no insight into the cause of the April 5 blast at the Montcoal, W.Va., mine, which is owned by Richmond-based Massey. But experts said the charges suggest that the Justice Department is exploring possible criminal liability.

    Massey had been cited for numerous safety violations before the explosion.

    "They are being thorough and they are being comprehensive,'' said Davitt McAteer, chair of an independent West Virginia state commission that also is probing the disaster. McAteer is a former head of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

    It is unclear whether an attorney for Stover has been named. Stover has not entered a plea; he is scheduled to appear in federal court March 15.

    Shane Harvey, general counsel for Massey Energy, said the company notified the Justice Department "within hours" of learning that documents sought by investigators had been disposed of and took steps to recover the papers and turn them over to the government.

    "The Company takes this matter very seriously and is committed to cooperating with the U.S. Attorney's office,'' Harvey said in a statement.

    Sources familiar with the Justice Department's criminal investigation described it as expansive. They said it was focused on the explosion, whether safety procedures designed to prevent the blast were followed and whether any documents were destroyed to cover up the cause.

    Investigators reportedly have run into several obstacles. About 270 people have been interviewed, but about 15 others - including Blankenship, Massey's head of safety and the foreman of the Upper Big Branch mine - have declined to speak to investigators, sources said.

    Even if the FBI finds evidence of criminal wrongdoing beyond obstructing justice, it might be difficult to bring a substantial case, mine safety experts said.

    "If you had a superintendent instructing someone, 'We don't have time to fix that unsafe condition or clean up all this coal dust, let it go until next week,'' that's not a felony'' under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, said Tony Oppegard, a lawyer and former top Mine Safety and Health Administration official.

    Sources familiar with the investigation said prosecutors will likely seek Stover's cooperation in the inquiry and question him about his ties to Blankenship.

    A Massey spokesman declined to comment beyond the company's statement.

    Stover, 60, was arrested on Monday at his home in Clear Fork, W.Va., on charges of obstruction of justice and making false statements. He works for Performance Coal Co., a Massey subsidiary that operates the Upper Big Branch mine.

    The indictment charges that Stover lied to an FBI agent and an investigator for the mine safety administration who were probing allegations that security guards at Upper Big Branch routinely notified mine workers when federal inspectors had arrived at the facility. Such notification could prevent inspectors from fully evaluating the mine's operations.

    Stover, the indictment said, denied that such a practice existed and told agents that he would have fired any security guard who provided such advance notice. In reality, the indictment says, Stover personally instructed security guards to notify mine personnel whenever federal inspectors arrived at the mine.

    The indictment also charges Stover with attempting to impede the federal investigation by directing someone, whose identity was not revealed, to dispose of thousands of pages of documents stored in a Massey building near the mine. The documents, which had been discarded, included information about earlier federal inspections, according to the indictment.



    Filth: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/28/AR2011022803552.html?tid=nn_twitter

  12. #12
    Guest Member S Landreth's Avatar
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    Upper Big Branch Disaster: Massey Kept Two Sets Of Safety Books!

    from Firedoglake/NPR,..........

    Let’s lay out the facts, shall we? Massey was known for its obsessive focus on production above all else. This obsession came directly from the CEO, Don Blankenship. After he managed to break the union at the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine he immediately increased the production quota’s by 70% and moved from three 8 hour shifts to two 12 hour ones.

    The saying around the mine about workers was “A man is like a tool. If it gets bent or broken, get rid of it and get a new one”. That is the kind of depraved disregard for workers that is the hall mark of mine run by Don Blankenship.

    It is not even close to an isolated incident. Blankenship, who had no background in mining, but was a finance and accounting trained guy, was also the one that wrote the now infamous memo in 1995 saying:

    If any of you have been asked by your group presidents, your supervisors, engineers, or anyone else to do anything other than run coal (i.e. build overcasts, do construction jobs, or whatever) you need to ignore them and run coal.”

    Overcasts are a safety measure that keeps air flowing correctly in the mines to avoid the build up of methane and coal dust. Both of these contaminates are highly combustible and are major hazards of coal mining. Basically Blankenship was telling his mine managers that they should ignore the safety recommendations of his engineers and just “run coal”.

    Today there is news about the investigation into the disaster at the UBB mine. NPR is reporting that the Federal investigators have found that Massey was lying to them for years. From the NPR story:

    Mine owner Massey Energy kept two sets of records that chronicled safety problems. One internal set of production reports detailed those problems and how they delayed coal production. But the other records, which are reviewed by federal mine safety inspectors and required by federal law, failed to mention the same safety hazards. Some of the hazards that were not disclosed are identical to those believed to have contributed to the explosion.

    Think about that for a second. This company actually had an institutionalized fraud in place to deceive Federal mine safety inspectors. This is a huge deal as it seems that there were conditions similar to the ones believed to have caused the explosion and death of 29 miners, in their hands in advance of the accident.


    story: Upper Big Branch Disaster: Massey Kept Two Sets Of Safety Books! | MyFDL

  13. #13
    Guest Member S Landreth's Avatar
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    December 6, 2011

    The Justice Department and the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration tried to bring closure Tuesday to two key aspects of last year's deadly coal mine disaster in West Virginia. The mine safety agency issued its final report on the explosion — a 13-pound document that blamed Massey Energy for putting production far ahead of safety — and the DOJ announced the largest settlement ever in a coal mine disaster.

    Closure is a relative concept, with 29 lives lost, 29 families now with brothers, sons, fathers, grandfathers and husbands gone for 20 months. After all the news of the day, Gary Quarles stood in the hallway at the Mine Safety and Training Academy in Beckley, W.Va., trying to make sense of it all. He wore a black T-shirt with these words printed on the front: "Gary Wayne Quarles. Son. April 5, 2010."

    "I'm the same right now as I was when I found out that he was dead," he said of his son. "And I can't see it changing, no matter how much money — if there's any — that comes our way or how many people go to jail. That's not gonna help me."

    Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced to the families of the Upper Big Branch victims that he had reached a $210 million settlement with the owner of the mine.

    "We can never place a value on the lives of these victims," Goodwin said. "What we did want to achieve through this resolution is to make sure that it wasn't simply a stroke of a pen writing a check. It was a commitment to making the lives of miners safe every day."

    The settlement extracts from Alpha Natural Resources, which bought Massey Energy earlier this year, nearly $130 million for mine safety training and major safety equipment improvements. Although the settlement blames Massey for the conditions that led to the deadly explosion, Alpha will pay nearly $35 million in fines for Massey's safety violations. As much as $1.5 million will go to each of the families as restitution.

    In return, no criminal charges will be filed against Alpha. That angers Judy Jones Petersen, a Charleston physician whose brother Dean died in the disaster.

    "Justice is not if you have enough money to pay off your heinous acts then you may go free," she said. "And that's what's happening here. They have enough money, they have the wherewithal, and mind you, it's done on the backs of people whose lives were lost, but they have enough money to pay away their sins."

    Goodwin said there are limited ways to punish a corporation.

    "It is not a life. It is not a being. It can't go to jail," he said. "The only thing that it can do is help make sure something like this doesn't happen again."

    Goodwin said his office is still considering criminal charges against former Massey executives and managers responsible for the Upper Big Branch mine. They can be charged, despite the settlement. He said the investigation has revealed criminal conduct but declined to be more specific.

    In a written statement, Alpha Natural Resources said it's time to take the hard lessons and create positive change in the industry. Back at the mine safety academy, Gary Quarles struggled to take it all in, tears welling in his eyes.

    "I ask myself all the time, I say, 'Where's my son at? And why did this happen to him?' "

    The Mine Safety and Health Administration blamed systematic, intentional and aggressive efforts by Massey Energy to avoid compliance with safety laws. Quarles shook his head after hearing that.

    "It's the same old story," he said.

    link: West Virginia Mine Settlement Fails To Bring Closure For Families : NPR

  14. #14
    Guest Member S Landreth's Avatar
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    Hope he fuckin’ rots.

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The former CEO who oversaw the West Virginia mine that exploded, killing 29 people, was indicted Thursday on federal charges related to a safety investigation that followed the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in 40 years.

    Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is accused of conspiring to violate safety and health standards at Upper Big Branch Mine and became the highest-ranking executive to face charges in the blast. The explosion and investigation led to the overhaul of the way the federal government oversees mine safety.

    U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said a federal grand jury indicted Blankenship on several charges.

    The indictment said: "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. 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."

    Blankenship could face up to 31 years in prison if convicted.

    His attorney, William W. Taylor III, said in a statement that Blankenship "is entirely innocent of these charges. He will fight them and he will be acquitted."

    "Don Blankenship has been a tireless advocate for mine safety," the statement said. "His outspoken criticism of powerful bureaucrats has earned this indictment. He will not yield to their effort to silence him. He will not be intimidated."

    News about the indictment spread fast in the mining community. Pam Napper, whose son, Josh Napper, was among the miners killed at Upper Big Branch, said she was elated.

    "I think it's about time," Napper said. "He was a big part of this. He knew what was going on in that mine and continued to let it go. I hope he gets what he deserves. I am so excited. They aren't sad tears today. They're happy tears."

    In February 2013, a former longtime subordinate, David Hughart, testified that Blankenship ordered the widespread corporate practice of warning coal miners about surprise federal inspections. The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said the root cause of the blast was Massey's "systematic, intentional and aggressive efforts" to conceal life-threatening problems. MSHA said managers even maintained two sets of pre-shift inspection books — an accurate one for themselves, and a sanitized one for regulators.

    The indictment says Blankenship conspired to violate standards at the mine from January 2008 until April 2010, when the explosion tore through the tunnels.

    The explosion prompted federal officials to begin to take a harder look at problem Appalachian mines with lingering compliance issues. The result was monthly "impact" inspections at problem mines in addition to routine visits. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said last month that it has conducted 823 "impact" inspections sites and issued more than 13,000 citations since April 2010.

    Blankenship made false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission concerning Massey Energy's safety practices before the explosion, the indictment said. He made similar statements in connection with the purchase and sale of Massey Energy stock, it said.

    Alpha Natural Resources bought Massey for $7.1 billion in June 2012. Blankenship retired ahead of the merger.

    "We can only hope that the outcome of the upcoming proceedings that were announced today will provide some level of comfort and closure for the families of the fallen miners and to the larger community where we live and operate," Alpha said in a statement.

    Four investigations into the mine disaster found that worn and broken cutting equipment created a spark that ignited accumulations of coal dust and methane gas. Broken and clogged water sprayers allowed what should have been a minor flare-up to become an inferno. Blankenship started a blog to push his assertion that the presence of natural gas in the mine, and not methane gas and excess coal dust, was at the root of the explosion.

    The indictment notes that Massey was cited for safety violations 835 times from January 2008 until the explosion in April of 2010. An Associated Press investigation immediately after the blast found that Massey had racked up 600 MSHA violations at Upper Big Branch in less than a year-and-a-half leading up to the explosion.

    While it was not uncommon at the time for large mines like that to amass hundreds of safety violations, industry experts told the AP that few mines had as many serious infractions as Upper Big Branch.

    Others have been convicted in the case. Former White Buck Coal Co. President Hughart, who testified that Blankenship ordered the inspection warnings, pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges. Hughart, who never worked at Upper Big Branch, was eventually sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for his role.

    Former Upper Big Branch superintendent Gary May was sentenced last year to one year and nine months in prison on charges he defrauded the government through his actions at the mine, including disabling a methane gas monitor and falsifying records. May cooperated with prosecutors.

    He testified at the February 2012 sentencing of former Massey security chief Hughie Elbert Stover, who was sent to prison for three years for lying to investigators and ordering a subordinate to destroy documents. It was one of the stiffest punishments ever handed down in a mine safety case.

  15. #15
    Thailand Expat Pound Hound's Avatar
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    "Massey was cited for safety violations 835 times from January 2008 until the explosion in April of 2010"

    amerika.... love it or leave it....

    the almighty dollar rules!

    if I got 835 speeding tickets in a 2 year period would they still let me drive?

  16. #16
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    ^Probably be trussed and tasered like a turkey...But yes, you could still drive...

  17. #17
    Guest Member S Landreth's Avatar
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    Hope he fuckin’ rots in hell!


    A mascot of the coal industry’s worst excesses, Blankenship pumped millions of dollars into West Virginia’s political system to promote an anti-regulatory agenda and curry favor with state lawmakers and officials. But Massey’s pursuit of profits at any cost ultimately proved to be Blankenship’s downfall. When, on April 5, 2010, an explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine killed 29 workers — the worst mining disaster in the United States in 40 years — prosecutors began slowly building a case against the powerful mogul.

    Last November, four years after Blankenship left Massey and the company was bought for $8.5 billion by Virginia-based coal company Alpha Natural Resources, a federal grand jury indicted him for allegedly conspiring to commit mine safety violations, conspiring to cover up those violations, and providing false statements about his company’s safety record. He could face more than 30 years behind bars.

    Snip

    “It was very, very obvious from the first part that [Blankenship] cared about one thing and one thing only, and that was the dollar, and it was clear that he worshipped at the altar of greed and dollars, and he wouldn’t let anything get in the way,” says Trumka, who is now the president of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest federation of trade unions. “He claimed to be a local boy — that he cared about the locality and wanted to do something to help people. But all of his actions speak the opposite way.”

    Snip

    In its official report on the fire, the MSHA detailed how Massey’s disregard for safety violations resulted in the tragedy: “In each case, no effective management system, policy or procedure was in place to assure compliance with the underlying regulations and safe mining practices,” the report declared. Included was a memo from Blankenship himself, directing all deep-mine superintendents to put aside safety projects and focus on moving product. “If any of you have been asked by your group presidents, your supervisors, engineers or anyone else to do anything other than run coal (i.e. — build [ventilation] overcasts, do construction jobs, or whatever), you need to ignore them and run coal,” he wrote. “This memo is necessary only because we seem not to understand that coal pays the bills.” (Soon thereafter, Blankenship circulated a memo emphasizing Massey’s commitment to safety.) Aracoma pleaded guilty to 10 criminal charges of mine safety violations in federal court and paid a $2.5 million fine. It also paid $1.7 million in civil penalties to the MSHA for “reckless disregard” of mine safety. Four Aracoma foremen pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges, but a plea agreement prevented the Department of Justice from seeking charges against anyone at Massey. Blankenship, for his part, told a conservative talk show host that the miners probably died because they “panicked.”

  18. #18
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    Hope he rots in prison for 30 years getting buggered daily by huge mountains of men that insist on him screaming "Who's your momma" while they're doing it.

    That's more achievable.

  19. #19
    Guest Member S Landreth's Avatar
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    Former coal executive says company took safety shortcuts under ex-CEO

    Former executive testifies Massey Energy was more concerned about having to pay fines than actually keeping mines safe under Don Blankenship

    A former coal executive who was dealt a prison sentence for mine violations testified on Friday that his company sometimes took shortcuts to produce coal under his top boss, ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

    Taking the stand in Blankenship’s criminal trial, former Massey subsidiary president David Hughart said that under Blankenship and former COO Chris Adkins, the company was more concerned about having to pay fines than actually keeping mines safe. He said his mines would sometimes be short-handed and still producing coal.

    “It was just always a push for production,” said Hughart, who testified on Thursday and Friday in Charleston federal court under a plea deal with the government.

    In 2013, Hughart was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for conspiring in an illegal scheme to warn miners and other subsidiaries of surprise safety inspections. Hughart implicated Blankenship in the conspiracy during his plea hearing.

  20. #20
    Guest Member S Landreth's Avatar
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    How will he defend himself?

    Prosecution rests in trial of ex-CEO in 2010 West Virginia mine explosion

    The trial will now shift to defense for Don Blankenship, who could get up to 30 years in prison for breaking safety laws in worst US coal mine disaster in decades


    The prosecution rested Monday in the high-profile trial of ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship after weeks of testimony asserting that he put dollars ahead of human safety in the years before the worst US coal mine disaster in decades.

    Now the trial pivots to the former coal executive’s multimillion-dollar defense.

    In US district court in Charleston, 27 witnesses testified for the government against Blankenship. The trial, which began 1 October, featured about two dozen days of testimony from Massey management and miners, expert witnesses, federal regulators and more.

    Blankenship could face up to 30 years in prison on charges of conspiring to break mine safety laws at Upper Big Branch Mine and lying to financial regulators and investors about company safety. The southern West Virginia mine exploded in 2010, killing 29 men.

    Prosecutors painted Blankenship as a micromanager who received constant reports about what happened at Upper Big Branch, meddled in the smallest decisions at the mine and cared more about money than safety. His attorneys, meanwhile, have used testimony from multiple prosecution witnesses to support his defense.

    Prosecutors got their hands on plenty of phone calls that Blankenship secretly recorded in his Massey office, and aimed to let the former coal baron make their case in his own voice.

    In two calls, Blankenship said Massey would “blow ourselves up” without federal mine regulators, and that black lung wasn’t an issue worth the time regulators put into it.

    Blankenship said in other key calls that a scathing internal safety memo should be kept highly confidential, and that it would be a terrible document to show up in legal discovery if there was a mine fatality.

    Blankenship also complained when the board wanted to cap his salary at $12m, calling board members “so unappreciative”, and adding that he “can’t go to the grocery store and buy groceries with (stock) options”.

    The recordings emerged in a previous case where Blankenship was successful in getting Alpha Natural Resources, which bought Massey, to cover his criminal case legal fees. Alpha, however, has filed for bankruptcy and is looking to get out of the obligation to Blankenship.

    Former Massey subsidiary president Christopher Blanchard took the stand under an immunity agreement with the government, but helped the defense during almost five days of cross-examination.

    Blanchard, whose company oversaw Upper Big Branch, told prosecutors he believed Blankenship had an understanding that it was less expensive to pay fines than for measures to prevent safety violations. He also said the majority of Upper Big Branch violations could have been prevented by hiring more miners or spending more time on safety tasks.

    Afterward, he told Blankenship’s attorneys that he himself did not break any laws. He denied multiple times being involved in a conspiracy with Blankenship to violate safety regulations. The defense then showed Blanchard more than 180 documents to get him to agree that Blankenship and Massey pushed for safety.

    Prosecutors then reined him in, asking him about conflicting answers he gave to a grand jury in November 2014 to see if he still believed he told the truth. He said he did.

    For example, after Blanchard hedged on his trial testimony, prosecutors reminded him he told a grand jury definitively that Blankenship knew of a scheme at Upper Big Branch to warn underground miners when federal inspectors were coming, so the miners could address deficiencies before inspectors arrived.

    Blanchard said prosecutors last year threatened to indict him if he didn’t cooperate with the investigation. His immunity agreement is voided if he lies.

    Former Massey safety expert William Ross, who gave the tough review of the company’s safety shortcomings, provided one of the trial’s rare emotional testimonies.

    Ross wept while testifying about how thrilled he was that he thought Massey was going to change. He also became emotional while talking about a 2009 meeting with Blankenship.

    In the meeting, Ross said he suggested the company increase the number of workers by one in each of about 50 mine sections. He told Blankenship the company couldn’t “afford to have a disaster”.

  21. #21
    Guest Member S Landreth's Avatar
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    I would have thought the outcome would have been different, but I didn’t hear the testimony.

    Former Coal CEO Who Oversaw Mine That Killed 29 People Will Only Face Up To A Year In Prison


    Former coal baron Don Blankenship was found guilty of conspiring to violate coal mine safety standards Thursday.

    Blankenship, who headed up now-defunct Massey Energy until 2010, was indicted last November on charges that he violated federal mine safety rules and health standards at the Upper Big Branch coal mine between 2008 and 2010. The Upper Big Branch mine was the site of an April 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners — a disaster that’s considered the worst the coal mining industry has seen since 1970.

    Though the federal jury in Charleston, West Virginia did find Blankenship guilty of conspiracy, it did not find him guilty of securities fraud or of making false statements after the disaster. As Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports, Blankenship faced three counts of felony charges — charges that, if he had been found guilty, would have had him faced with up to 30 years in prison. The jury only found Blankenship guilty of a misdemeanor conspiracy count, however, so Blankenship will instead spend up to one year in prison. Blankenship’s attorney said Thursday that he doesn’t think his client will spend a single day in prison, and thinks the jury’s decision will be overturned once it’s appealed.

    “We are disappointed in the verdict. We wanted to be acquitted on all counts, but the fact the jury acquitted him on all felonies and convicted only on the misdemeanor is some consolation,” attorney Bill Taylor said.

    Blankenship, who has maintained that his prosecution was politically-motivated, is expected to be sentenced in March.

    Twenty-seven witnesses testified at the trial — testimony that took 24 days to complete. More than a dozen of those were former mine workers. The miners, as the Ward reports, spoke of working in mines that had high levels of dust and inadequate access to fresh air. Despite these problems, they said they were ordered to keep working.

    “The defendant ran Massey in a way that violating mine laws was inevitable, and he knew it,” U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said during closing arguments on November 17. “He knew that you simply could not mine the amount of coal he demanded with the limited amount of people he was willing to devote and the resources that he was willing to devote without breaking the law. And he kept right on doing it.”

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby also addressed the jury about the mine’s conditions.

    “Picture walking through a mine and seeing everywhere in the tunnels around you coal dust, knowing it’s explosive, knowing there’s an easy way to make it safe by putting down pure white rock dust on top of it, but the people in charge won’t take the time to do it,” Ruby said. “Fast forward a few years to this trial and picture having the defense try to blame the coal miners for the safety violations that happened at UBB.”

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