Sunday, November 16, 2014
Good news! Just when we thought the rich were immune from prosecution for killing people, a federal grand jury in West Virginia has indicted Don Blankenship, the former president and CEO of Massey Energy, for causing the deaths of 29 coal miners by placing profits ahead of safety.
The West Virginia Metro News reports.
The 43-page four-count federal indictment of former Massey Energy president and CEO Don Blankenship portrays an operator obsessive about upping production at the cheapest cost. Federal prosecutors allege it was an attitude that led to the deadly explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County that killed 29 miners.
The indictment, announced Thursday by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, alleges Blankenship knew about UBB’s safety problems and the practice of alerting supervisors underground when federal mine inspectors arrived at UBB for inspections. It’s also alleged he lied to the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission about mine safety in the days after the April 5, 2010 explosion in an attempt to help Massey’s stock price.
Blankenship was charged with conspiracy to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards, conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials, making false statements to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and securities fraud….
The indictment alleges Blankenship was driven by the numbers and in doing so ignored dozens of safety violations at UBB and covered up others. Federal prosecutors said from April 3, 2009, to April 5, 2010, Blankenship received 249 daily safety violation reports from the UBB mines but did very little to correct the problems.
Blankenship is a nasty piece of work, even in the pitiless exploitative business of coal mining, but his outlook on profits before lives is not uncommon in the extraction industry and in corporations in general. Now, in the global “free trade” economy, companies are exporting that indifference to the primacy of life to sweat shop labor in nations such as Bangladesh (textiles) and China (hi-technology).
No one can bring back the lives of 29 miners who worked in grimy unsafe conditions, but the indictment is, for a moment, a glint of justice flashing through the overcast clouds of immunity for corporate outlaws.
We need a lot more prosecutions like this one.