Greed & Death: The Massey Energy Coal Mine Explosion
Greed & Death: The Massey Energy Coal Mine Explosion

In 2010, a coal mine explosion killed 29 miners at Upper Big Branch coal mine in Montcoal, West Virginia. The explosion revealed a combination of inadequate regulation, greed, and intimidation silencing employees about safety violations.

This long standing problem resulted in a record-breaking $200 million settlement with the offending company, Massey Energy. But did it spark any real change? The part of the settlement that represents penalties for gross indifference to mining safety is a pittance for the misery and death involved.

Just four years before the Montcoal explosion, the Sago Mine explosion in West Virginia killed 12 miners. Attempts to secure justice resulted in mining companies filing countless appeals. In the end, Massey Energy paid about $365,000 for $1.77 million in assessed fines.

Revolving Door

Why does the problem persist? In short: money and politics.

Former government officials become lobbyists, and former mine company executives are appointed to the government regulatory agency, MSHA.

Last year the mining sector spent more than $26 million lobbying legislators. Also, according to one former MSHA regulator, Tony Oppegard, “The Bush era practice of appointing industry-friendly regulators has an extremely detrimental effect on mining safety.”

Finally, Prosecution

In February 2012, a former superintendent of the mine, Don Blankenship, became the highest ranking company official to be charged in the disaster. He was charged with conspiracy to defraud the government, disabling a methane gas monitor and falsifying safety records. In 2016, Blankenship was sentenced to one year in prison for conspiring to violate federal mining standards.

The only other Massey Energy employee prosecuted in 40 years is a former Security chief. He was sentenced for lying to investigators and trying to destroy documents.

Prosecutors have accused Massey of violating a host of safety laws, while putting production and profits first. Previous, criminal charges only targeted low ranking employees and not the corporate officers who directed the coverups.

Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, and Yucca Valley and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.

DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.

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