Rare criminal trial over mine safety violations begins tomorrow

Tomorrow, former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship will stand trial in federal court in West Virginia for allegedly lethal violations of federal mine safety rules. From a Slate preview of the case:

Known for his in-your-face policies and politics, Blankenship is accused of creating a ruthless work culture that skimped on safety and employee well-being to improve the bottom line. Three investigators have concluded that his methods contributed to the explosion at the company’s Upper Big Branch deep mine at Montcoal, West Virginia, that killed 29 miners on April 5, 2010. It was the worst mine disaster in 40 years in this country.

Perhaps most significantly, reports Slate, the trial, which is expected to last a month or more, "is the first time in 150 years of Appalachian mining that the top boss of a coal firm has ever had to answer for how he ran his company."

It is heartening to see aggressive enforcement of worker safety laws. The more they are rigorously enforced, the less they can be ignored.

Read the entire Slate article, which dives into the many complexities of the case, here.