The coal baron Don Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy, has been found guilty of conspiring to violate mine safety laws – a conspiracy that meant putting his company’s workers’ lives at risk.
For far too long in this nation’s history, coal operators have recklessly endangered their workers’ lives, with thousands of workers dying in accidents and many hundreds of thousands more dying and suffering from black lung and associated diseases.
Today’s guilty verdict should send the message to coal company executives that society will no longer tolerate this trade of miners’ lives for coal and profit. Indeed, it should send a message to CEOs across the country: No more recklessly endangering workers’ lives, and you will be held criminally liable if your actions – and inaction – cost lives.
The prosecutors who brought this case deserve immense credit, for it is no small thing to go after a coal executive in coal country, and prosecutions of corporate executives remain far too rare.