Coal Tattoo

FBI: Blankenship told of UBB violations

Then-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship personally received daily reports that listed nearly 600 safety violations issued to the Upper Big Branch Mine in the months before the April 2010 explosion, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s lead agent investigating the mine disaster told federal jurors this morning.

FBI Special Agent Jim Lafferty summarized the findings of his review of five thick binders of daily violation reports sent to Blankenship and other top Massey officials in late 2009 and early 2010.

Questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby, Lafferty read from and explained to jurors the Massey financial reports from the years prior to the disaster. One report, for example, showed that Massey had nearly $1.2 billion in cash-on-hand as of March 31, 2010, Lafferty testified.

Among other things, federal prosecutors allege that Blankenship had the power – and the money available – to hire more miners so that UBB and other Massey mines could keep up with government health and safety standards.

Instead, prosecutors say, Blankenship conspired to violate those safety rules and cover up the resulting hazards to workers.

Lafferty took the stand this morning as prosecutors prepared to end the presentation of their case against Blankenship. He is the 27th and last government witness on the 23rd day of testimony in the trial.

Lafferty explained that while Blankenship was not sent copies of the actual citations issued by the federal Mines Safety and Health Administration, his daily violation reports provided a summary of what each violation alleged and the seriousness of each one.

Ruby had Lafferty go through a collection of MSHA citations and daily violation reports in pairs to show jurors how each of the violations was summarized in that day’s daily report to Blankenship. After reviewing eight of these pairs of citations and daily reports, Ruby prefaced his next question with the phrase, “We could do this all day.”

Defense lawyers objected and U.S. District Judge Irene Berger told the jurors to disregard ruby’s remark.

Ruby then asked Lafferty how many of the citations from UBB were summarized in the daily violation reports sent to Blankenship.

“587,” Lafferty replied.