The comeuppance and downfall of an arrogant coal baron

Don Blankenship had it all. The West Virginia coal baron had all the baubles of personal wealth, absolute control over his corporate subordinates and workers, and unmatched political power that extended through every branch of state government and deep into the back rooms of Washington policy makers. In the house of Big Coal, Master Blankenship was Lord of the Manor.

Don Blankenship had it all. The West Virginia coal baron had all the baubles of personal wealth, absolute control over his corporate subordinates and workers, and unmatched political power that extended through every branch of state government and deep into the back rooms of Washington policy makers. In the house of Big Coal, Master Blankenship was Lord of the Manor.

But soon, Don might be moving into an even bigger house – as in “The Big House.” The former boss of Massey Energy is presently on trial for intentionally neglecting mine safety laws, conspiring to cover up the violations, and effectively causing an explosion of methane and coal dust that killed 29 miners in Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in 2010. It was the worst mine disaster of modern times, and in a rare turn of events for corporate world, the boss himself has now been brought before a jury of common West Virginians to answer criminal charges that could put him in prison for 31 years.

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This is no mere formality. Already, four of Blankenship’s top assistants have been convicted for criminally risking the miners’ lives, and federal prosecutors have testimony, documents, and tape recordings revealing that the CEO himself was “plainly cheating” on rules to protect workers. Blankenship bares his soul on one tape, declaring that its okay to demand that miners increase production of coal at the expense of their own safety, for “This game is about money.”

Quite a few other gamers ought to be in the dock with Don – George W. Bush, for example, and the bipartisan bunch of congress critters who took Big Coal’s campaign cash in exchange for defunding, denigrating, and discouraging federal regulators who dared to stand up to Lord Blankenship. Those for-hire political fixers are co-conspirators in Massey Energy’s corporate murders.

“The Coal Baron on Trial in Appalachia,” The New York Times, October 30, 2015.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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