Massey Mine Boss Going to Jail

Massey Mine Boss Sentenced; Feds Toughen Mine Safety Rule

January 17, 2013 2:18 PM

Mine helmets and painted crosses were placed at the entrance to Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine as a memorial to the 29 miners killed there.

Jeff Gentner/AP

Nearly three years after a deadly mine explosion in West Virginia, a former Massey Energy mine superintendent has been sentenced to prison and federal regulators have toughened a regulation that could have helped prevent the disaster.

Today in federal court in Beckley, W.Va., former Upper Big Branch coal mine superintendant Gary May was sentenced to 21 months in prison and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.

The sentencing was part of a plea agreement in which May is cooperating with federal prosecutors as they continue to investigate the April, 2010, explosion that killed 29 coal miners at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine.

May pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and admitted to ordering a company electrician to disable a methane monitor on a mining machine so it could continue to cut coal without automatic shutdowns. The monitor is a safety device that senses explosive amounts of methane gas and automatically shuts down mining machines when dangerous levels of gas are present. The incident was first reported by NPR in July, 2010.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says the sentence sends “a powerful message to this mine manager and other mine managers who would put profits over safety: if you violate mine laws and put miners at risk you will go to jail.”

May also pleaded guilty to deceiving federal mine safety inspectors and hiding safety violations.

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