This news is too hard to bear. How can residents of the coalfields comprehend much less accept the possibility that those hired and empowered to provide and enforce a safe work place, to look over our miners, serve as their guardian angels, their underground brothers voluntarily give up that control at the miner’s expense. It was a well known fact the Appalachian coalfield’s native son, former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, born in Shopover, Kentucky, raised in Delome, West Virginia and a graduate of Matewan High School, pushed coal production at all costs. He made no bones about that as evidenced in a memo Blankenship sent in October 2005 to all deep mine superintendents, "If any of you have been asked by your group presidents, your supervisors, engineers or anyone else to do anything other than run coal (i.e. - build overcasts, do construction jobs, or whatever) you need to ignore them and run coal. This memo is necessary only because we seem not to understand that coal pays the bills." Reported in the West Virginia Record.
To make a long story short, after this explosion at Upper Big Branch mine, the worst disaster in the US since 1972, Blankenship, head of the UBB mine operation, retired after almost three decades at Massey. He left practically in the middle of the night. The announcement of Blankenship’s “retirement” came late on a Friday after the markets closed – a sure-fire sign that the ouster was abrupt and awkward. It came one day after a West Virginia judge ruled against Blankenship’s motion to dismiss two lawsuits holding him personally responsible for the Upper Big Branch mine explosion.
Under the conspiracy charge, “May, together with others known and unknown, unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly combined, conspired, confederated, and agreed together with each other to defraud the United States and an agency thereof, to wit, to hamper, hinder, impede, and obstruct by trickery, deceit, and dishonest means, the lawful and legitimate functions of DOL and its agency, MSHA, in the administration and enforcement of mine health and safety laws at UBB,” according to court documents.