Thursday, February 23, 2012


(Image snagged from here. Click on image to enlarge.)

Nearly two years ago, 29 men died in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. As I pointed out back then, the cause of this disaster was ultimately the decision by the mine operator, Massey Energy, that mine safety was less important than high production.

We haven't heard too much since then, so my assumption was that the operator would get fined, would appeal that fine, would settle the issue for a few bucks, and that would be that. Apparently I was wrong. The federal government has continued the investigation and has filed criminal charges. Not only that, but those charged are not low-level underlings chosen to take the fall but mid-level managers and they are cooperating with the feds to go after higher-ups.

The superintendent of the West Virginia coal mine where an explosion killed 29 men was charged Wednesday with conspiracy to defraud the federal government, becoming the highest-ranking Massey Energy employee to face criminal prosecution so far over the deadly blast.

Former Upper Big Branch mine boss Gary May, 43, of Bloomingrose, W.Va., is named in a federal information, a document that signals a defendant is cooperating with prosecutors. He is the second Massey employee to face prosecution in the case. ...

The information filed in U.S. District Court in Beckley accuses May of conspiring with others to conceal many dangers in the mine through an elaborate scheme that included code words to alert miners underground when inspectors were on the property, the deliberate alteration of approved ventilation plans and the deliberate disabling of a methane gas monitor on the continuous mining machine.

May allegedly ordered the wiring to be altered in February 2010 so the automatic shut-off mechanism was disabled, allowing the machine to function for several hours without a methane monitor. ...

The information says Massey subsidiary Performance Coal Co. and its managers routinely violated a host of federal mine safety laws for fear that violations would cut into production time.
[Emphasis added]

Well, what do you know: our federal government actually can get it right, if it has a mind to. Justice can be served by looking backward so that as we go forward this kind of egregious miscreant behavior can be discouraged.

See, Eric Holder: it really isn't that hard a concept.

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Anonymous MsInformed said...

Was just reading aboutthis in the news paper tonight & am glad you're writing about it. One of the 3 men was charged with "conspiracy".

When crimes are planned, that's conspiracy.

7:29 PM  

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