A federal judge ruled that former Massey Energy chief executive officer, Don Blankenship, will not have to pay millions of dollars in restitution following a mine explosion in 2010 at the Upper Big Branch Mine. Blankenship was convicted of a misdemeanor conspiracy charge related to the explosion in December, a conviction that carries a sentence of up to one year in prison and a $250,000 fine. Prosecutors are urging the judge to give Blankenship the maximum penalty possible.
Judge Irene Berger ruled that Blankenship wouldn't have to pay $28 million in restitution to Alpha Natural Resources, which bought Blankenship’s former company after the explosion, The Associated Press reported.
Alpha filed for bankruptcy in August. It bought Massey for $7.1 billion in early 2011, just months after an explosion at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch mine killed 29 workers.
The restitution order, though, means he won’t have to pay Alpha for the money it spent on the case. Alpha spent $13.5 million to cooperate with the investigation into the explosion and $4.3 million representing former Massey employees. It spent an additional $10 million on mine safety violation penalties.
Berger decided the company had absorbed those charges more than a year after buying Massey and that Blankenship didn’t need to pay them.
His attorneys reportedly asked the judge to dismiss 94 other restitution claims from Massey miners and their families.