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In 'Starting Place' for Justice, Coal Baron Found Guilty Over Notorious Mine Blast


#1

In 'Starting Place' for Justice, Coal Baron Found Guilty Over Notorious Mine Blast

Nadia Prupis, staff writer

Coal baron Donald L. Blankenship, who became the face of corporate turpitude when 29 of his company's workers were killed in a 2010 mine blast, was convicted of a federal charge Thursday in a verdict that Appalachian activists said was no more than a "starting place" for justice.

Blankenship, 65, was found guilty of conspiracy to violate mine safety laws and faces up to one year in prison. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin called the verdict "a landmark day for the safety of coal workers."


#2

Well, some may be speaking in celebratory terms, but I am disgusted. The jury had 27 days of testimony on 3 counts, with up to 31 years possible sentence...and after over a week of deliberating, they picked just the least serious charge. I wonder if there was jury tampering involved. For that matter, I'm disgusted that defrauding investors carried a 30 year sentence, while conspiring to fool safety inspectors--a practice that led to the deaths of 29 men, and probably lots of other injuries--was a mere one year. I guess that's because investors are from the class where each life--and even their pocketbooks--matter, while coal miners are only slightly more important than pets.


#3

Articulate post. Thank you.


#4

Blankenship -- the billionaire owner of Arch Coal -- is a pig of a man who lives in a fortified mansion with armed guards on one of the few remaining mountains in the West Virginia coalfields. The lord of mountaintop removal coal mining has leveled what was once one of the most bio-diverse mountain ranges in the world. The strip of coal towns, where the miners lived in small, company-owned shacks, are now ghost towns. Where the miners went is anybody's guess. The little coal towns that line the only road in the valley are deserted, and the tiny houses are shuttered and empty, as are the church or two, and the company store. The Coal River still runs black with coal dust, which covers everything in the valley, and the catfish are grossly deformed.

The appalling thing is that most of what Blankenship hath wrought is perfectly legal, and the miners -- sick and dying of black-lung disease -- as usual, will receive no compensation for their suffering.


#5

Blankenship and his henchmen consider the miners much less important than pets!


#6

I had the same thought while reading that.


#7

Sounds like a first hand account. Is it? Blankenship is a pig, but that's being unkind to pigs. The entire universe of W.Va. politics conspired to nullify the intent of surface mining laws. Oh yes, it's all perfectly legal. And W.Va. politicians are leading the charge to completely and permanently eliminate environmental responsibility from official discussion and action.


#8

Minor correction: Blankenship was CEO of Massey Energy, later reorganized as Alpha Natural Resources (Kevin Crutchfield CEO) after the disaster.


#9

But at least this is a start.

The 1972 Pittston Coal's Buffalo Creek waste dam failure killed 129 people and devastated dozens of miles of valley. Yet CEO Nick Camica never as much as got a single derogatory word about it. After many years, the survivors were paid a few thousand dollars and Camica went on to be lionized as a great rags-to-riches businessman (most WV coal CEO's, including Blankenship, really did start their careers as low-level mine laborers, for which I say "so what?"), and even a "Humanitarian of the Year" award. There is now an endowed chair of mining engineering named after him at Virginia Tech not too far from where the disaster happened.