Coal / Energy

Witness: Ex-coal CEO preferred fines to safety prevention

A memorial to the fallen miners in Whitesville, W.Va. Stephen Crowley / The New York Times

A memorial to the fallen miners in Whitesville, W.Va.
Stephen Crowley / The New York Times

CHARLESTON, WV — “In Charleston federal court Thursday, the prosecution questioned former Massey subsidiary president Christopher Blanchard, as he takes the stand against ex-Massey CEO Don Blankenship under an immunity agreement…

Blankenship could face up to 30 years in prison on charges of conspiring to break mine safety laws at Upper Big Branch Mine and lying to financial regulators and investors about company safety. The southern West Virginia mine exploded in 2010, killing 29 men. Blanchard’s subsidiary, Performance Coal, oversaw the mine.

Blanchard testified Thursday that as the subsidiary’s president, he made $450,000 in 2009 and saw his pay grow to $600,000 in 2010, despite hundreds of safety violations levied against his mine at the time. Even after the April 2010 explosion, his compensation grew when Massey put him in another job, Blanchard said.

Blanchard said there was a setup at Upper Big Branch where miners were warned when federal inspectors arrived on mine property, so the workers could tend to deficiencies before inspectors went underground.”

— Jonathan Mattise, Associated Press

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