Ex-coal CEO conviction stirs tougher safety penalty talks

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship will spend a year behind bars — if that — in the wake of an explosion at a mine in southern West Virginia that killed 29 miners in 2010.

Blankenship was convicted of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety standards at Upper Big Branch Mine — a misdemeanor.

Critics say the punishment barely fits the crime and that the case is an example of a coal executive getting off too lightly when federal laws are broken.

Prosecutors said they can only work with the penalties Congress has provided. Most laws in the federal mine safety books are enforceable with only misdemeanor penalties.

Congressional Democrats have been pushing for stiffer penalties for mine safety crimes, but without success so far.


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