Don Blankenship’s name used to be prefaced with the word “colourful”; the head of Massey Energy was the subject of many posts quoting his views on everything from turning down thermostats and conservation, which he considered the first steps to socialism. That all ended in April, 2010, when one of his mines blew up, killing 29 miners. In 2014 he was indicted and charged with conspiracy.
Now, almost six years to the day after the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion, he has been sentenced to a year in jail. One’s first reaction might be to say “that’s all?” but as Alan Blinder notes in the New York Times,
As the former governor notes, “I never heard of anyone thinking that that could happen or would happen, because it had never happened before.”
It was virtually unthinkable not long ago that Mr. Blankenship, whose company was central to West Virginia’s coal industry, would ever stand before a judge for sentencing in this state. When a federal jury convicted Mr. Blankenship of a misdemeanor charge in December, the United States attorney said it was the first time such a high-ranking corporate executive had been found guilty of a workplace safety crime. (Jurors, however, dealt a substantial defeat to the Justice Department and acquitted Mr. Blankenship of three felony counts.)
Indeed. According to the Wall Street Journal, he is “widely believed to be the first chief executive of a major U.S. corporation to be convicted of workplace safety related charges following an industrial accident.”
Of course Blankenship still claims he is innocent and is appealing. We will see if he does the time.
TreeHugger emeritus Brian Merchant did the heavy lifting of our Massey/ Blankenship coverage: Here are some of his posts, that may provide some background.
A tragic explosion thought to be brought about by a methane leak in a West Virginia coal mine has left 25 dead and 4 missing. The blast occurred in a mine operated by Performance Coal Company, a subsidiary of Massey Energy, one of the largest coal companies in the US. More in TreeHugger
In the week following the biggest mining tragedy in the last 40 years, the Mine Health and Safety Administration has found a disconcerting 130 "significant and substantial" safety violations at dozens of other Massey mines. More in TreeHugger
I spent a little time last week writing about the Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. Massey owns the West Virginia mine that had racked up thousands of safety violations by the time tragedy struck last week, leaving 29 miners dead. I profiled Blankenship's long history of putting profit over miner safety, but I forgot one particularly telling video, first shown on TreeHugger last September. It needs to be seen to be believed: More in TreeHugger
The Man Behind the West Virginia Coal Mine Tragedy?
With all of the information that continues to be revealed after the tragic accident at the mine killed 25, it's hard not to start pointing fingers at the man in charge. And in this case, it's easier than usual to do so--Don Blankenship, the CEO of Massey Energy, the company that owns the coal mine, seems to have modeled his job after the very caricature of a villainous corporate tycoon. More in TreeHugger
Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, whose record of ignoring safety violations in has come under fierce scrutiny after the tragedy in his West Virginia Upper Big Branch mine left 29 dead. That mine itself had racked up 57 safety violations the same month the accident occurred, and had thousands more prior. Meanwhile, Blankenship has a long history of putting profits before safety, and has publicly declared this to be the case on a number of occasions--now, in light of recent evidence, shareholders of Massey Energy are calling for the company to fire him. More in TreeHugger