Coal Tattoo

Don Blankenship indicted

Mine Explosion Congress

If you haven’t heard the latest, here’s the big coal news today from West Virginia:

Don Blankenship, the longtime chief executive officer of Massey Energy, was indicted Thursday 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.

We’ve posted a copy of the indictment on the Gazette’s website, and here’s a summary of narrative it lays out:

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.

Also on the Gazette website, my coworker Kate White has a story with what some of the families of the miners who died at Upper Big Branch are saying today. We’ve also got a timeline of major events since the April 5, 2010, disaster, and a summary of convictions so far in the federal probe.

R. Booth Goodwin, Steve Ruby You can read U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin’s (left, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby)  short and to-the-point statement about the indictment here.

Bill Taylor, Blankenship’s attorney had this to say in a prepared statement:

We were notified today that our client Don Blankenship has been indicted in the Southern District of West Virginia. Mr. 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. 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.

And here’s a different statement, issued this evening by retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller:

For more than four years, Upper Big Branch families have cried out for justice for their loved ones lost in that horrific tragedy. Today’s indictment of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is another step toward justice.  But let me be clear: in my view, Don Blankenship, and the mines he once operated, treated miners and their safety with callousness and open disregard.  As he goes to trial, he will be treated far fairer and with more dignity than he ever treated the miners he employed. And, frankly, it’s more than he deserves.