Coal Tattoo

Defense lawyers for Don Blankenship this morning continued their cross-examination of prosecution witness Chris Blanchard, now in its fourth day.

Lead defense lawyer Bill Taylor asked the former Performance Coal Company president about a series of memos aimed at showing that Massey Energy was concerned about safety prior to facing tougher federal enforcement in late 2007 and early 2008.

“Safety is our priority,” Blanchard said, reading from one Massey memo dated March 2007.

Blanchard testified about one incident in which the Upper Big Branch Mine’s conveyor belt system was shut down so excess amounts of spilled coal could be cleaned up.

Blanchard read to the jury from handwritten notes that depicted Blankenship as furious that the situation had been allowed to reach that point.

“I’ve had it with nonsense,” Blankenship had written. “Whoever is in charge of the belts needs to be discharged. Let’s turn this company around.”

In a second handwritten note directed to Blanchard, Blankenship said: “Clearly your UBB super[intendent] and belt people are not members” – Massey’s term for its employees. “Clear them out.”