An Upper Big Branch mine superientendent has been charged with felony conspiracy, according to a release last week from the U.S. Attorneys Office in Charleston.
Gary May, 43, of Bloomingrose, West Virginia, was charged today with conspiring to impede the Mine Safety and Health Administration's enforcement efforts at Massey Energy Company's Upper Big Branch mine (UBB) between February 2008 and April 5, 2010.
UBB was the site of a fatal explosion on April 5, 2010. May was the mine's Superintendent at the time of the explosion.
An Information filed by United States Attorney Booth Goodwin alleges that May conspired to defraud the United States by impeding MSHA in carrying out its lawful functions, a felony violation of 18 U.S.C. 371.
The offense charged in the Information carries a potential penalty of up to five years' imprisonment.
"This charge is a significant step in the investigation of events at the Upper Big Branch mine," said Goodwin. "Our investigation of those events remains ongoing."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General are handling the investigation.
West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller said Massey managed the mine without the culture of safety.
All of the reports and investigations since the Upper Big Branch tragedy have made it abundantly clear that Massey managed the Upper Big Branch mine without the culture of safety and compliance that miners deserve and the law requires, said Rockefeller. Since this tragedy, I have continued to push to provide our miners safer working conditions, make sure our state and federal regulators are doing their jobs to stringently enforce the laws that aim to make the mines safer, and make certain that bad actors are held accountable for their unlawful actions.
We have made some strides with MSHA moving forward to update its regulations and Congress passing my legislation to require mining companies to disclose safety issues in their public business records, Rockefeller added. But we still have to work on strengthening whistleblower protections for miners that report safety concerns, and also on reducing the backlog of appeals that delay safety enforcement. Even as time passes, our commitment to protect current and future miners and the memory of those who have been lost must never end. Ill continue to do everything in my power to protect the brave men and women who mine our nations coal.