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Thursday, October 27, 2016

A former president of Massey Energy subsidiary Green Valley Resource Group pled guilty on Thursday to safety violations connected to the 2010 coal mine explosion that left 29 dead at the Upper Big Branch mine. David Hughart also told the judge that the CEO of Massey was directly involved in a policy of impeding Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) inspections.

Judge Irene Berger asked Hughart which company officials ordered him to give advance warnings of MSHA inspections, which are supposed to be unannounced.

“The chief executive officer,” he replied.

Don Blankenship was the CEO of Massey at the time, and Hughart’s wife Karen confirmed that her husband was indeed referring to Blankenship. “Don called the office and at home,” she said. “Anyone that did not comply was threatened. We lived under fear.”

“I allowed… it to happen,” David Hughart told the court. “I was responsible for the operation.”

Investigations into the explosion concluded that Massey hid problems at the mine using doctored safety-inspection books and an advance-warning system.

Hughart—the highest ranking official charged as a result of the investigation of the disaster—faces up to six years in prison and a $350,000 fine. He will be sentenced June 25.

Blakenship’s attorney, William Taylor, denied that the coal baron prevented proper inspections.

“Don Blankenship did not conspire with anybody to do anything illegal or improper. To the contrary, Don took every possible step to make the mines under his responsibility safer,” he said in an email.

After a 2006 fire, attorneys found a memo, reportedly from Blankenship, that told workers to disregard their bosses’ instructions to build safety precautions: “Ignore them and run coal,” the memo said.

Blankenship has donated millions to conservative politicians. In 2006 alone, he spent $1.8 million to elect 41 Republican candidates. He retired from Massey in 2010.

Alpha Natural Resources, Inc. acquired Massey’s operations in a June 2011 merger and is cooperating with the investigation. The company has paid $210 million to settle violations at the now-sealed Upper Big Branch mine and other Massey mines.

“Don Blankenship is a very powerful person,” David Hughart’s son Jonathan said Thursday, outside the courtroom. “He won’t see a day in prison. I promise you that.”

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File




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  • bpai99

    Hughart’s son is absolutely correct that Blankenship won’t spend a day in jail. He’s directly responsible for causing the deaths of 29 men and he will walk. The country is run by the Golden Rule: those with the gold make the rules. Blankenship has gotten away with mass murder and without doubt sleeps just fine at night.

    • sunmusing

      The sad part is there is no 2nd amendment remedy for these guys…

      • nobsartist

        Yes there is. All you have to do is get them to visit Detroit. After the snow melts, they will be found.

    • nobsartist

      Their is always a conveinant “accident” that can happen to them once their home addresses are made public.

      After all, if our government is too inept and corrupt to protect us from these criminals, people have a tendency to create their own justice.

  • nobsartist

    Close down the company and throw all upper management and the board of directors in prison for a minimum of 15 years.

  • sunmusing

    All of the coal mines I worked at did the same thing…They even had code words for the radio transmissions underground…the prevailing attitude at the corporate mines is to pay the fine and not fix the problem…this is SOP for mine operators…all of them…MSHA knows this and takes things like this into consideration…it has been and always will be a cat and mouse relationship, until we get the corruption out of government…How many politicians are bought and paid for with big coal money? Our lives mean nothing to them…