Skip to main content

The Stakes Have Never Been Higher.

In the face of existential emergencies to humanity, Common Dreams is facing other potentially fatal threats to our funding model. Please support our nonprofit journalism and help us reach our $75,000 Mid-Year Campaign goal.

'Normal' is killing us.

Donald Trump is out of the White House. COVID-19 is fading, at least in wealthier nations. The world, they say, is returning to “normal.” That’s the narrative that the corporate media is selling. But there’s a problem: “normal” is destroying our planet, threatening our democracies, concentrating massive wealth in a tiny elite, and leaving billions of people without access to life-saving vaccines amid a deadly pandemic. Here at Common Dreams, we refuse to accept any of this as “normal.” Common Dreams just launched our Mid-Year Campaign to make sure we have the funding we need to keep the progressive, independent journalism of Common Dreams alive. Whatever you can afford—no amount is too large or too small—please donate today to support our nonprofit, people-powered journalism and help us meet our goal.

Please select a donation method:

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

Don Blankenship was sentenced to one year in prison for his role in the blast that killed 29 workers. (Screenshot)

'Ruthless' Coal Baron Don Blankenship Gets Maximum Sentence for 2010 Blast

Rights group says sentencing should usher in 'new day' of accountability for executives

A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced notorious coal baron Don Blankenship to one year in prison, another year of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000—the maximum sentence Blankenship faced—for his role in a 2010 West Virginia coal mine blast that killed 29 workers.

The sentence comes six years and one day after the explosion at Upper Big Branch. Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy, was convicted in December of conspiracy to violate mine safety laws.

The sentence is "a long time coming," Dr. Judy Jones Peterson, whose brother Dean Jones died in the accident, said ahead of the hearing in Charleston.

"We've been waiting for this day," she said.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger found that Blankenship abused his position of trust as Massey CEO and organized criminal activity with five or more participants, as Ken Ward wrote for the Charleston Gazette.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby told the court that Blankenship had prioritized money over safety and endangered the lives of his workers. Ruby had previously requested the maximum sentence in the case, writing in an 11-page court briefing last week, "What punishment can suffice for wrongdoing so monstrous?"

"If ever a case cried out for the maximum sentence, this is it," Ruby said Wednesday. "Breaking mine safety laws kills people. Breaking mine safety laws kills coal miners. The defendant placed human lives in jeopardy."

Blankenship's trial has been closely monitored by rights groups who see him as the face of corporate malice. Robert Weissman, president of the watchdog group Public Citizen, said Wednesday that the sentence—albeit light—was "the right thing to do."

"With heavy hearts, coal miners and their families today can celebrate a modicum of justice," Weissman said. "For decades, coal company executives have ruthlessly endangered the lives of coal miners, disregarding the law and sure they could escape, at worst, with slap-on-the-wrist penalties."

"Hopefully today's sentence signals a new day, when executives can and will be held accountable and put in jail for their crimes," Weissman said.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Support progressive journalism.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Experts Warn Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Could Slash Unemployment Benefits

"Cutting unemployment insurance for infrastructure" is how one analyst described a funding source proposed by a bipartisan group of senators and the White House.

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·


Progressives Alarmed by Privatization Dub Infrastructure Deal a 'Disaster in the Making'

"Communities across the country have been ripped off by public-private schemes that enrich corporations and Wall Street investors and leave the rest of us to pick up the tab."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


'We Must Not Stand Down': 270+ Arrested at Anti-Logging Protests in Canada

A battle over old-growth forests is raging in British Columbia.

Kenny Stancil, staff writer ·


US Lawmakers Demand EU 'Do the Right Thing or Get Out of the Way' on Covid-19 Vaccine Patent Waivers

"A global recovery requires a global response based on health needs—not Big Pharma," said Congressman Jesús "Chuy" García at a rally.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


'Horrible and Unconscionable Betrayal': Biden DOJ Backs Trump Line 3 Approval

"You are siding with a handful of corrupt corporate elites over honoring treaty rights, climate, water, and the future of life on Earth."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·