Scott Statement on Don Blankenship’s Release from Prison

WASHINGTON – Committee on Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03) issued the following statement after Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy, was released from prison after being convicted for conspiracy to violate federal mine safety laws that stemmed from the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion in West Virginia that claimed that lives of 29 miners.

“The release of the former Massey CEO who served the maximum possible sentence of only one year for willfully violating mine safety standards that led to the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster should serve as a reminder that the criminal provisions in the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 remain woefully inadequate. The maximum penalty for the willful violation of a mandatory health and safety standard is a mere misdemeanor – rather than a felony – regardless of the number of miners killed because of criminally reckless conduct. 

The Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act, which I reintroduced on April 5th, would deter the criminal endangerment of miners by increasing the maximum penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony; if a mine operator knowingly violated mandatory health and safety standards which recklessly exposed miners to significant risk of serious injury or death. The bill would also impose a maximum five-year prison sentence. Today, we are reminded of the importance of enacting the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act.”