Which is Worse? A Drug Dealer or Don Blankenship?

From the government’s sentencing memorandum for Donald L. Blankenship:

“Which is worse: a poor, uneducated young man who sells drugs because he sees no other opportunity, or a multimillionaire executive, at the pinnacle of his power, who decides to subject his workers to a daily game of Russian roulette? Which is worse: that young man carrying a gun during a single drug deal—a crime that will earn him a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence—or a CEO jeopardizing the lives of hundreds, day after day? Which is worse: stealing money or trampling on laws that protect human life?

“In each case, to ask the question is to answer it. Under any fair assessment, only a sentence of many years in prison could truly reflect the seriousness of [Blankenship]’s crime and provide just punishment, which the law requires the court to do.”

In a juxtaposition, a letter to the court supporting Don Blankenship:

“I saw multiple times where Don would see a need and just quietly fill it behind the scene anonymously or remaining very low key. All these huge public improvements didn’t come with a big banner flying overhead that said, “Donated by Don Blankenship and/or Massey Energy;” that’s not how he has chosen to operate through the years. Many people using these parks, community buildings, like the Delbarton Opry House, don’t even know where much of the funding and/or materials came from. (Lisa Crum).”

In Memory Of the Miners of UBB

In Memory of the Upper Big Branch miners who died on this day in April 2010, for nothing less than greed, negligence, and indifference to human life. Management did not care about their health or suffering. I don’t care what some people think. I have been writing about this subject long enough to know that this explosion was preventable. Most of the miners had black lung — a completely preventable disease. The men felt trapped into working there because of the illegal employment agreements that prevented them from getting jobs in a 90-mile radius if they quit or were fired. The equipment would break down so they could not safety do their jobs. There will never be peace for their families.

To those injured and survived, Timothy Blake, and James Woods, I hope that you will feel some sort of justice tomorrow.

On this day, I dedicate this page to these men who died at UBB:
1. Carl Acord, 52, roof bolter operator, 33 years mining experience, 44 weeks at this mine
2. Jason Atkins, 25, roof bolter operator, mining experience unavailable, 44 weeks at mine
3. Christopher Bell, Sr., longwall utility, 36 weeks mining experience, 8 weeks at mine
4. Gregory Brock, 47, electrician, 5 years mining experience, 5 years at mine
5. Kenneth Chapman, 53, roof bolter operator, 28 years mining experience, 24 weeks at mine
6. Robert Clark, 41, continuous miner operator, 11 years mining experience, 44 weeks at mine
7. Charles Davis, 51, longwall foreman, 32 years mining experience, 8 years at mine
8. Cory Davis, 20, underground apprentice, 20 weeks mining experience, 8 weeks at mine
9. Michael Elswick, 47, beltman/fireboss, mining experience unavailable, experience at mine unavailable
10. William Griffith, 54, continuous miner operator, 36 years mining experience, 16 years 32 weeks at mine
11. Steven Harrah, 40, assistant mine foreman, 9 years mining experience, 1 year 4 weeks at mine
12. Edward Jones, 50, assistant mine foreman, mining experience unavailable
13. Richard Lane, 45, longwall foreman, 8 years mining experience, 36 weeks at mine
14. William Lynch, 59, shuttle car operator, 34 years mining experience, 44 weeks at mine
15. Joe Marcum, 57, continuous mine operator, 32 years mining experience, 16 years at mine
16. Ronald Maynor, 31, scoop operator, 3 years 24 weeks mining experience, 3 years at mine
17. Nicholas McCrosky, 26, electrician, 3 years mining experience, 1 year 24 weeks at mine
18. James Mooney, 51, shuttle car operator, 32 years 24 weeks mining experience, 10 years at mine
19. Adam Morgan, 21, underground apprentice, 8 weeks mining experience, 8 weeks at mine
20. Rex Mullins, 50, headgate operator, 20 years mining experience, 6 years 40 weeks at mine
21. Joshua Napper, 26, underground apprentice, employee of independent contractor David Stanley Consultants LLC, 8 weeks mining experience, 8 weeks at mine
22. Howard Payne, Jr., 53, roof bolter operator, 12 years mining experience, 11 years at mine
23. Dillard Persinger, 32, shield operator, 2 years mining experience, 2 years at mine
24. Joel Price, 55, shearer operator, 35 years mining experience, 2 years 24 weeks at mine
25. Gary Quarles, 33, shearer operator, 14 years mining experience, 12 years 24 weeks at mine
26. Deward Scott, 58, shuttle car operator, 38 years mining experience, 44 weeks at mine
27. Grover Skeens, 57, maintenance foreman, 33 years mining experience, 14 years at mine
28. Benny Willingham, 61, roof bolter operator, 34 years mining experience, 44 weeks at mine
29. Ricky Workman, 50, shuttle car operator, 9 years mining experience, 8 years at mine

Judge Berger: Alpha’s Not A Victim

Alpha Natural Resources is not a “victim” entitled to restitution in the criminal case against former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger ruled today. In fact, Alpha calculated the potential losses based on the known criminal proceedings at the time of the sale, and made an informed business decision when it purchased Massey Energy after the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion that killed 29 miners.

Alpha sought $13,472,200.21 in restitution from Blankenship. Specifically Alpha sought $4,310,671.21 for participation in the investigation and prosecution of the case; $4,310,671.21 for indemnification of former Massey employees who cooperated as witnesses in the case; and, $10,004,935 for the payment of the violations at the UBB mine.

In her decision denying Alpha’s claim for restitution, Judge Berger noted “that Alpha acquired Massey over one year after the UBB explosion or the end of the indictment period; calculated a value for Massey which incorporated potential losses arising from the criminal investigation; voluntarily agreed to cooperate with the U.S. in order to reduce the potential for criminal and/or civil penalties arising from Massey’s conduct; entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. as the result of the company’s cooperation; agreed to pay the fines for violations at UBB, and produce the documents that were introduced by the U.S. at the trial; and, agreed to indemnify the legal expenses of former Massey employees who testified for the U.S. in the case.”

“Each of these decisions resulted in significant financial costs… each of the decisions that resulted in Alpha’s claimed losses were made after the conclusion of the conspiracy for which [Blankenship] was convicted in this case….

“At the end of the indictment period, Alpha had incurred none of the expenses for which it claimed restitution…. Alpha incurred its now claimed financial ‘injury’ at least a year later, and only after it voluntarily acquired Massey and voluntarily entered into the non-prosecution agreement with the Government. Thus, Alpha is not a ‘victim” as defined by the Victim and Witness Protection Act,” Judge Berger wrote.

Blankenship’s sentencing is on Wednesday.

Miner Killed At Huff Creek Mine

A miner was killed today in a rib roll at Lone Mountain Processing’s Huff Creek Mine in Harlan County, Ky.

It’s the second rib roll fatality at the mine since an Aug. 6, 2013, rib roll (coal/rock outburst) killed 56 year-old miner Lenny Gilliam, who suffered fatal blunt force injuries to his head, chest, and legs, and injured a mobile bridge operator who suffered multiple blunt trauma injuries involving the chest, right arm, and back.

The mine has been cited 33 times for roof control and roof plan violations since the fatal accident. Most recently the mine was cited Feb. 22, 2016 for violations under 75.220(a), for allegedly failing to develop and follow a roof control plan, approved by the District Manager, that is suitable to the prevailing geological conditions, and the mining system to be used at the mine.

Below are the roof control and roof plan violations cited by MSHA since the fatal accident in 2013.

————————————————————————————————————

Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8375775 000384055 11/21/2014 7/19/2015 104(a) 11/21/2014 C Y 75.202(a) 460.00 Closed 460.00 460.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8375137 000369456 6/14/2014 1/28/2015 104(a) 6/14/2014 C Y 75.202(a) 585.00 Closed 585.00 585.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8375772 000381261 11/4/2014 6/18/2015 104(a) 12/1/2014 C Y 75.202(a) 585.00 Closed 585.00 585.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8322132 11/23/2015 104(a) 11/24/2015 C Y 75.202(a) Not Assessed Yet
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8321702 000391699 2/3/2015 10/18/2015 104(a) 2/5/2015 C Y 75.202(a) 460.00 Closed 460.00 460.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8321328 000391699 2/5/2015 10/18/2015 104(a) 2/5/2015 C N 75.202(a) 100.00 Closed 100.00 100.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8387040 000369456 6/14/2014 1/28/2015 104(a) 6/14/2014 C Y 75.202(a) 392.00 Closed 392.00 392.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8375779 000384055 12/1/2014 7/19/2015 104(a) 12/3/2014 C Y 75.202(a) 460.00 Closed 460.00 460.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8412133 000361428 3/19/2014 10/19/2014 104(a) 3/20/2014 C Y 75.202(a) 1,300.00 Closed 1,300.00 1,300.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8390919 000371838 6/27/2014 2/15/2015 104(a) 6/27/2014 C Y 75.202(a) 392.00 Closed 392.00 392.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8338797 000384055 11/25/2014 7/19/2015 104(a) 11/25/2014 C Y 75.202(a) 499.00 Closed 499.00 499.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8375767 000381261 10/28/2014 6/18/2015 104(a) 10/28/2014 C Y 75.202(a) 687.00 Closed 687.00 687.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8392720 000356241 1/9/2014 7/22/2015 104(a) 1/13/2014 C Y 75.202(a) 392.00 Closed 392.00 392.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8375136 000369456 6/14/2014 1/28/2015 104(a) 6/14/2014 C Y 75.202(a) 585.00 Closed 585.00 585.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8375791 000391699 1/30/2015 10/18/2015 104(a) 2/5/2015 C Y 75.202(a) 1,795.00 Closed 1,795.00 1,795.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8375138 000369456 6/14/2014 1/28/2015 104(a) 6/14/2014 C Y 75.202(a) 585.00 Closed 585.00 585.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8386695 000359230 3/19/2014 3/14/2016 104(a) 3/19/2014 C Y 75.203(a) 70,000.00 Pending Payment 50,000.00 0.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8412130 000361428 3/19/2014 10/19/2014 104(a) 3/20/2014 C Y 75.203(e)(1) 975.00 Closed 975.00 975.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8387483 000396682 10/14/2015 1/1/2016 104(a) 10/15/2015 C Y 75.209(e)(3) 224.00 Closed 224.00 224.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8409135 000345213 1/13/2014 4/16/2014 104(a) 1/15/2014 C N 75.209(f) 100.00 Closed 100.00 100.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8396359 000347962 10/9/2013 5/21/2014 104(a) 10/10/2013 C Y 75.220(a)(1) 634.00 Closed 634.00 634.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8322140 12/22/2015 104(a) 12/22/2015 C N 75.220(a)(1) Not Assessed Yet
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8322139 12/22/2015 104(a) 12/22/2015 C N 75.220(a)(1) Not Assessed Yet
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8386931 000391699 1/30/2015 10/18/2015 104(a) 1/30/2015 C Y 75.220(a)(1) 540.00 Closed 540.00 540.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8375766 000381261 10/23/2014 6/18/2015 104(a) 10/28/2014 C Y 75.220(a)(1) 2,106.00 Closed 2,106.00 2,106.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8400914 2/18/2016 104(a) 2/22/2016 C Y 75.220(a)(1) Not Assessed Yet
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8400915 2/22/2016 104(a) 2/22/2016 C N 75.220(a)(1) Not Assessed Yet
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8396686 000364432 4/8/2014 11/19/2014 104(a) 4/8/2014 C N 75.220(a)(1) 100.00 Closed 100.00 100.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8412129 000364432 3/19/2014 11/19/2014 104(a) 3/19/2014 C N 75.220(a)(1) 100.00 Closed 100.00 100.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8375765 000381261 10/20/2014 6/18/2015 104(a) 10/20/2014 C Y 75.220(a)(1) 687.00 Closed 687.00 687.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8412416 000376567 9/5/2014 4/19/2015 104(a) 9/5/2014 C Y 75.220(a)(1) 392.00 Closed 392.00 392.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8338798 000384055 11/25/2014 7/19/2015 104(a) 12/3/2014 C N 75.223(a)(1) 100.00 Closed 100.00 100.00
Lone Mountain Processing Inc 8386694 000359230 3/19/2014 3/14/2016 104(a) 3/19/2014 C Y 75.223(a)(1) 70,000.00 Pending Payment 25,000.00 0.00

Bye-Bye Mr. Hall

News in from Kentucky: Convicted ex-state Rep. W. Keith Hall of Phelps, Ky., was sentenced to 7 years in prison for paying $46,000 in bribes to a state mine inspector. He reports to prison on May 18.

It’s not the first time he’s been in trouble.

The Lexington Herald Leader previously reported that Hall “twice was fined by the Legislative Ethics Commission, once for taking no-bid contracts funded by money he approved in the state budget and another time for failing to properly disclose his personal finances for six consecutive years. Prior to his election to the House, Hall was forced to resign from the Pike County school board in 1999 during a state investigation into his alleged attempts to improperly influence the awarding of school district jobs.”

Our mining industry needs upstanding operators. All anyone asks for is a level playing field, and that you play by the rules. It’s good for business and our country.

Bye-Bye Mr. Hall … and good riddance.

Job Posting: North Carolina Mine Inspector

The State of North Carolina is searching for a mine inspector. Please see details below. Deadline for application is Dec. 11.
JOB CLASS TITLE: Mine Safety & Health Representative
POSITION NUMBER: 60012966
DEPARTMENT: Dept of Labor
DIVISION/SECTION: Standards and Inspections
SALARY RANGE: $42,667.00 – $69,177.00 Annually
SALARY GRADE / SALARY GRADE EQUIVALENT: 72
COMPETENCY LEVEL: Not Applicable
APPOINTMENT TYPE: Permanent Full-Time
WORK LOCATION: Edgecombe County
OPENING DATE: 12/07/15
CLOSING DATE: 12/11/15 5:00 PM Eastern Time
DESCRIPTION OF WORK:
Conducts inspections of surface and underground mines (quarries, pits and processing plants) to detect both work and health hazards. Consults with mine management regarding education and training and inspection work necessary to meet the requirements of the Mine Safety and Health Act of North Carolina and the federal Mine Safety and Health Act. Conducts mine safety and health training as required by the Act. Provides technical assistance on a variety of mine safety and health and production issues related to providing a safe workplace. Investigates fatalities, complaints and accidents resulting serious injury as required. Position is located in the northeastern part of the state covering Wake – Edgecombe and surrounding counties.

KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS AND ABILITIES / COMPETENCIES:
Candidate must have considerable knowledge of the technical operations and accepted safety and health practices as well as the safety and health law and standards and training regulations governing the mining industry. Must have the working knowledge of the operations involved in the processing of minerals. Must have the ability to communicate in written and oral form. Must have the ability to maintain effective working relationships with mine management officials, miners and the public. Preferred candidate must have the ability to make decisions and recommendations and adapt to changing work environments and assignments; excellent leadership, time management and organizational skills as well as an excellent knowledge of computer systems, and the ability to evaluate and make recommendations of unusual problems, conduct training, perform public speaking engagements and be confident and independent. A valid drivers license is required.

MINIMUM EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE REQUIREMENTS:
Graduation from a four-year college or university with a degree in geology, mining or geological engineering, or related curriculum and two years of related mining work; or graduation from high school and five years of progressive experience in mining; or an equivalent combination of training and experience. . .

SUPPLEMENTAL AND CONTACT INFORMATION:
Supplemental & Contact Info:
To apply for this position, please click APPLY link above.
SEE ATTACHED RESUME WILL RESULT IN AN INCOMPLETE APPLICATION. To receive credit, all experience must be included in the work history sections. Any information omitted from the application but included in the resume will not be considered for qualifying credit. Faxed applications will not be accepted.

Persons eligible for veteran preference must submit a copy of Form DD-214.

NCDOL uses the Merit-Based Recruitment and Selection Plan to fill positions subject to the State Personnel Act with the most qualified applicants. When a salary range or recruitment range is posted, the actual salary will be based on relevant competencies, knowledge, skills and abilities, internal equity and budgetary considerations pertinent to the advertised position. All post-high school degrees must be from appropriately accredited institutions.

The State of North Carolina is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Due to the volume of applications received, we are unable to provide information regarding the status of your application over the phone. To check the status of your application, please log in to your account. Processing applications will take an average of 6 – 8 weeks due to the high volume of applications received. It is not necessary to contact the Human Resources Office to check the status of an application. Upon the closing date, applications are “Under Review” and will be screened by Human Resources for the most qualified applicants.

For technical issues with your application, please call the NeoGov Help Line at 855-524-5627. If there are any questions about this posting other than your application status, please contact:

NC Department of Labor
Human Resources Division
Beth Benson
919-733-0346

APPLICATIONS MAY BE FILED ONLINE AT:
http://www.oshr.nc.gov/jobs/index.html

NOTE: Apply to the department listed on posting
An Equal Opportunity Employer, NC State Government
Position #15-10436
MINE SAFETY & HEALTH REPRESENTATIVE
EB

Blankenship Found Guilty on Conspiracy Charge

The Associated Press and West Virginia Public Radio are reporting that former Massey CEO Donald Blankenship has been found guilty of a conspiracy charge. For recordings, click the link: Statement of Blankenship Verdict

When asked about the possibility of restitution to the families given the guilty verdict, albeit on one charge, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said, “Restitution is certainly a possibility. It will be determined through the sentencing process.” According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Ruby, Blankenship faces up to one year in prison and a fine could be up to twice the gain or loss that resulted from his conduct.

Statement from U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez on the jury verdict in the trial of Don Blankenship:
“Today’s verdict sends a clear message that no mine operator is above the law, that there must be accountability when people lose their lives because of the neglect of their employer. Workers in this country have the right to go home safe and healthy at the end of every shift, and the jury clearly recognized the violation of that right in this case. I am grateful for the work of the Department of Justice, including U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and his team, in its investigation and prosecution of this landmark case, and we stand ready to assist the Department of Justice in future cases to protect and defend the safety of our nation’s workers. I also applaud the efforts of DOL staff in the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the office of the Solicitor of Labor and the Office of the Inspector General for their work on the investigation, and their tireless commitment every day to protecting workers’ rights.”

Statement From the United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts:
“A measure of justice has been served through the conviction of Don Blankenship on federal charges of conspiring to violate mine safety standards. The truth that was common knowledge in the coalfields – that Don Blankenship cared little for the safety and health of miners working for his company and even less for the laws enforcing their rights – has finally been proven in court.
This decision will not bring back the 52 people killed on Massey Energy property during Blankenship’s reign as the head of that company, including the 29 killed at the Upper Big Branch disaster in 2010. Their families still must live without their loved ones, holding their grief in their hearts the rest of their lives. But a message has gone out today to every coal operator in America who is willing to skirt mine safety and health laws: you do so at your own personal risk. I thank the jury for having the courage to send this message and establish a clear deterrent to this kind of activity. Hopefully that deterrent will keep more miners alive and intact in the years to come.”

Queensland Orders “Urgent Investigation” on Black Lung

Four cases of black lung disease have been found in Queensland miners in Australia, and there is an outcry for an “urgent investigation.”

I had to look twice to make sure I read that right.

Compare this national outcry in Australia to the utter silence in the United States where 701 miners were reported to MSHA with black lung in the last five years.

Four cases in Australia = national outcry.

Seven hundred one cases in the U.S. = silence.

As Australian leaders point out, everyone of these cases was preventable, and it’s obvious in Australia that every life counts.

Compare the Queensland numbers to Alpha Natural Resource’s Paramont Coal Co. Virginia LLC. That company reported a total of 122 cases on black lung cases in the last five years. Paramont’s Deep Mine #26 alone reported 33 cases. The company’s Deep Mine 41 reported 31 cases and its Deep Mine #25 reported 29 cases.

But here in the U.S. we have no “urgent investigations.”

We have no investigations.

No operator is paying any price for 701 miners with this disease — at least not enough to ensure that this preventable disease doesn’t happen.

Blame can be shared in many corners. Operators fail to have adequate dust controls, and miners are afraid or simply won’t call inspectors. Some judges at the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission slap small fines where MSHA does find a violation, with judges claiming that one case of over exposure won’t cause black lung. Meanwhile, government records, where we know there is under-reporting, show cases of black lung in these very mines, and something very wrong.

While people can claim that “all lives matter,” this just isn’t the case with our nation’s miners. The black lung numbers, coupled with the complete and total lack of a national outcry, is proof that for those 701 who mined the coal that we need for all parts of our national infrastructure, their lives don’t matter.

For the story on the Queensland’s miners, click this link. Black Lung in Queensland