Former Massey Energy Official Faces up to Six Years in Prison for UBB Coal Mine Explosion

Massey Energy Valued Profits over People:  Massey official admits that if Massey had consistently followed the safety laws, coal production would have been decreased.

According to WV MetroNews, a former Massey Energy coal company official has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges stemming from safety violations at mines he operated.

The charges against David C. Hughart, the former President of Massey’s Green Valley Resource Group, are a result of the ongoing investigation into the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 miners.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says Hughart will plead guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and a misdemeanor charge of conspiracy. He faces up to six years in prison.  Hughart is the fourth Massey official so far to be criminally charged in connection with the UBB investigation.  According to federal documents, Hughart operated Massey Energy subsidiary mines in Nicholas County that routinely violated health and safety laws “because of a belief that consistently following those laws would decrease coal production.”

Additionally, Hughart was responsible for illegal advance warnings at his mines when federal Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors arrived. According to the federal document charging Hughart, “If these routine mine health and safety violations were detected by MSHA, the resulting citations and orders could result in coal production being stopped.”

Goodwin says it was a case of putting production ahead of safety.

“He wasn’t acting alone,” Goodwin said on Wednesday’s MetroNews Talkline. “The very nature of the conspiracy is that he acted in concert with other individuals, not just at Green Valley, but at other coal operations in Massey Energy.”

Federal investigators have been probing Massey operations since the April 2010 disaster at UBB. An MSHA investigation released last year found that flagrant safety violations contributed to a massive coal dust explosion that killed the miners.

Former UBB Mine Superintendent Gary May and the former head of security at the mine, Hughie Elbert Stover, have both been convicted of charges stemming from the disaster. A former UBB worker, Thomas Harrah, has also pleaded guilty to lying about being a foreman when he acted as one at UBB.

A judge has denied a motion to delay the sentencing of Gary May, a former superintendent of the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine, so the January 17th sentencing will go on as planned.  U.S. District Judge Irene Berger denied prosecutors’ request for a postponement, saying they’d failed to “state good cause.” Gary May pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in March.

May’s sentencing is set for Jan. 17, 2013 in Beckley. He’s cooperating with federal authorities in the ongoing criminal investigation of the 2010 explosion at the former Massey Energy mine where 29 men died in an explosion.

Additionally, Alpha Natural Resources, which bought out Massey after the disaster, has reached a $209 million dollar settlement in the case.

The UBB mine, located in Raleigh County, is permanently closed.

Coal Mine Injury and Wrongful Death Attorney

West Virginia coal miners are among the hardest working professionals in America. Despite strong MSHA regulations, coal mining continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Every year, miners are injured or killed because the coal operators continue to circumvent or violate safety laws for the protection of the miners.

The UBB disaster illustrates the continued need for integrity in safety compliance and inspections to prevent the untimely deaths of people who are simply trying to earn a living.  Unscrupulous companies that seek maximum profits by ignoring safety concerns must be held accountable.

Attorney Jeff Robinette has litigated complex work-related injury and death cases caused by workplace hazards. Our law firm has significant experience in litigating complex coal mine cases – like the Sago Mine explosion – where serious injuries and deaths occurred.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers. Call us today: 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide.

Source:  WAJR/WV MetroNews:  http://www.wvmetronews.com/index.cfm?func=displayfullstory&storyid=56579&type=

Bangladesh’s Story Was Our Story – and we still have a long way to go…

We have one hundred years’ worth of laws to protect laborers and punish wrongdoers, but we still have much to learn about ensuring that those who labor for our benefit are treated with justice.  In the early years of manufacturing in the US, we were dealing with the same issues as Bangladesh, India, and China.  More recently, the Upper Big Branch Coal Mine and Sago Coal Mine disasters illustrate the continued need for integrity in safety compliance and inspections to prevent the untimely deaths of people who are simply trying to earn a living.  The natural gas drilling industry is now working on regulating and inspecting its worksites for safety issues to minimize the hazards of this dangerous work.  Unscrupulous companies that seek maximum profits by ignoring safety concerns must be held accountable.

Concerning the UBB Coal Mine explosion,  federal documents state that the Massey Energy subsidiary mines in Nicholas County routinely violated health and safety laws “because of a belief that consistently following those laws would decrease coal production.”  David C. Hughart, the fourth Massey official facing criminal charges, will plead guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and a misdemeanor charge of conspiracy. He faces up to six years in prison.

Workplace personal injury and wrongful death lawyers are dedicated to ensuring that business owners maintain OSHA’s high standards for workplace safety, and ensure that if they do attempt to skirt compliance, they suffer great punitive damages.  Unfortunately, the fear of lawsuits is sometimes the only motivator for companies to maintain safety standards for their employees.

A scenario almost identical to the Tazreen Fashion Factory disaster in Bangladesh occurred in 1911 in New York City. The infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire became the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of New York and became the catalyst for true reform in New York State labor law.  The facts of this disaster were nearly identical to those of the recent fire in Dhaka where three company officials have been taken into custody and face criminal charges for locking the exit doors while employees were working.

As we shop for Christmas gifts and seek bargains, maybe we should consider why an object is so very cheap.  To make a difference on a personal level, we can investigate online where some of our goods are manufactured and avoid brands that are known to use sweatshop labor.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers. Call us today: 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide.

CONSOL Miner is Killed Near Morgantown, WV

A CONSOL Miner died on Thursday, September 13, 2012, after being seriously injured when he was struck by a large rock during a workplace accident along the track haulage at the Blacksville No. 2 mine.  According to the Dominion Post, the accident is under investigation and CONSOL is looking into what happened.

While the mine has a portal in West Virginia west of Blacksville, the bulk of the coal being mined is in Pennsylvania. The site of the accident will determine which state mine safety agency is involved.

CONSOL said it will provide updates on the accident as information becomes available and will work closely with federal and state mining officials to determine the cause of the incident.

West Virginia coal miners are among the hardest working professionals in America. Despite strong MSHA regulations, coal mining continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Every year, miners are injured or killed because the coal operators continue to circumvent or violate safety laws for the protection of the miners.

If your loved one has been injured or killed while working in or near a coal mine in West Virginia, you are entitled to certain workers’ compensation benefits and other recoveries from the coal company for “deliberate intention” violations set forth in West Virginia law, Section 23-4-2. Moreover, you may also be entitled to seek a recovery for money damages from any third parties – like equipment manufacturers and subcontractors – that contributed to or caused your injuries.

Free Consultation · Contingency Fees · Don’t Lose Your Workers’ Comp Benefits

The Robinette Legal Group is recognized as one of the region’s most successful coal mining injury litigation firms. Our attorneys understand the regulations and we know how to look beneath the coal dust to find the true cause of the accident and the full extent of your injuries and financial damages that result. We work independently as your attorney or with your workers’ compensation lawyer to seek full and fair compensation from the insurance company that is liable for damages.  Call us today at 304-594-1800.

Mine Safety Bill – Keeping our Miners Safe

According to WV MetroNews, this could be the week that the proposed comprehensive mine safety bill is passed.  The bill is designed to address some of the problems that led up to the Upper Big Branch mine disaster that claimed the lives of 29 miners in April of 2010.

All sides have agreed to rock dusting, ventilation plans, methane monitoring for coal mines, and family representation for any future deadly mine accidents.  The proposed bill also makes it a crime to warn a coal operator that a mine inspector is on site, puts stricter controls on keeping coal dust under control, and mandates that mining machines automatically shut down when methane levels build up.  The legislation also requires drug testing of certified coal miners and others who are routinely present at mining sites.

The exact language is still being debated, but all are agreed that these brave workers must be protected from preventable disasters.

If you or your family has been affected by a workplace accident, please visit us at http://www.robinettelaw.com or call us at 304-594-1800 for the help you need.