In the ongoing saga of the federal investigation into the April 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster that resulted in the deaths of 29 miners, things recently took a dramatic turn. The legal-criminal proceedings have resulted in four convictions to date. Now, in the most recent proceedings, a top Massey official has implicated former CEO Don Blakenship.
According to a news report by Ken Ward Jr in the Charleston Gazette:
Former Massey official David C. Hughart pleaded guilty to two federal criminal charges that he plotted with other company officials to routinely violate safety standards and then cover up the resulting workplace hazards.
But a fairly routine plea hearing here took a surprising twist when U.S. District Judge Irene Berger pressed Hughart to name his co-conspirators and Hughart responded, "the chief executive officer."
Hughart did not use Blankenship's name, but Blankenship was CEO of Massey from 2000 until 2010, during the period when the crimes Hughart admitted to committing occurred.On his Coal Tattoo blog, Ward looks at media coverage this news generated and how it was reported. He talks about what's next in the Upper Big Branch criminal probe. The prosecution has stated that "This is not the end of the investigation."
You can follow Don Blankenship's doings on his fairly new website, where he is self billed as "Native of Appalachia, Job Creator, CEO, and American competitionist." He posts his thoughts about mine safety, among other things, in an essay page. In his page of media coverage, Ken Ward's clips and the UBB mining investigations are unsurprisingly absent.
You can also follow his opinions and comments on Twitter at @DonBlankenship. Ironically, his most recent post accuses President Obama of lying, with a link to an essay which claims that Obama lied about climate change in his State of the Union address.
We're coming up on the third anniversary of this terrible Massey mine tragedy. The investigation and criminal probe of company officials continues, but it's important to look beyond that to ensure future safety. Ken Ward takes the MHSA to task for waiting 32 years to enforce the landmark mine safety act of 1977.
We point you to the Miners Memorial Page at the tribute site, Faces of the Mine. Scrolling through a page of 29 portraits brings home the enormity of this tragedy in a visceral way.