FBI Hints at Criminal Charges in Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
The Obama administration may be considering criminal charges against the operator of the Upper Big Branch Mine, where 29 workers were killed in April 2010.
In a letter to victims’ families, the FBI has mentioned its “investigation into various activities” at the mine to determine whether any federal laws were broken. Upper Big Branch is owned by Massey Energy, but was operated by its subsidiary, Performance Coal Co., at the time of the accident.
The U.S. Attorneys’ office in Charleston has charged Hughie Elbert Stover, the security director of Performance Coal, with lying to investigators and trying to destroy evidence in the case. And Thomas Harrah, who conducted safety examinations at Upper Big Branch, pled guilty to using a fake foreman’s license and lying about it to federal investigators.
The FBI may also be looking into numerous other safety violations committed by Massey that are unrelated to the Upper Big Branch tragedy.
Federal prosecutor Booth Goodwin would not comment on the FBI letter, which was distributed without the involvement of the U.S. Attorney.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
Massey Coal Executives Escape Prosecution for Mine Deaths (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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