April 10, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Charleston, WA – Former Massey Energy Company CEO Donald L. Blankenship was sentenced Apr. 6 to a year in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards—the maximum penalty for a misdemeanor.
The charges were filed after 29 workers were killed in an explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine on Apr. 5, 2010, the worst accident in American mining since 1970. Blankenship was accused of allowing repeated violations of safety standards, such as mine ventilation, roof support, and dust control, that are considered crucial for reducing the risk of an explosion. Lead prosecutor Steven R. Ruby told the court that Blankenship “knew that following the safety laws costs money” and that anything less than the maximum sentence “would signal that committing mine safety crimes might be a good gamble for a CEO.” Blankenship, 66, who insisted that “everyone knows that I am not guilty of a crime,” plans to appeal. “It should have been a felony,” said Gary Quarles, father of explosion victim Gary Wayne Quarles, who was 33. Another in the group of victims’ relatives screamed at Blankenship as he left the courthouse, “You don’t even know their names!” Read more