Environment
2:06 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Ex-Massey Executive Implicates Ex-CEO Blankenship in W.Va Mine Case

A former mine company executive in West Virginia pleaded guilty today to federal charges stemming from the 2010 disaster at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine. David Hughart was the Massey division president overseeing the mine when it exploded, killing 29 coal miners.

From U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office:

“Mine safety and health laws are not optional," said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. "This prosecution reiterates the message that mine safety violations are very serious crimes." Hughart admitted that he and others at Massey conspired to violate health and safety laws and concealed those violations by warning mining operations when MSHA  inspectors were arriving to conduct mine inspections. Hughart is believed to be the highest-ranking mine official ever convicted of conspiracy to impede MSHA or conspiracy to violate mine health and safety standards.

Hughart faces up to 6 years in prison and a fine of $350,000 when he's sentenced in June. But perhaps the most significant news coming from his guilty plea was the fact that he seemed to implicate Massey CEO Don Blankenship during his testimony.

From the Associated Press:

When asked by the judge where the orders for the advanced warning came from, Hughart said it came from the company's chief executive officer. The CEO at the time, Don Blankenship, was not mentioned by name, and federal prosecutors declined comment after the hearing.

Don Blankenship has been pretty visible lately; he's revived his long-dormant Twitter account and has posted several essays about coal mine safety and environmental regulations on his website.