CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In some of the government’s most important testimony against former Massey Energy Co. CEO Don Blankenship, the man who ran the Upper Big Branch Mine for Massey told a federal jury Thursday that Blankenship allowed regular safety violations because he believed paying government fines was cheaper than correcting potentially deadly hazards.
Chris Blanchard, who was president of Massey’s Performance Coal Co. subsidiary, testified that there was “an understanding” at Massey that a certain number of safety violations could not be avoided if the company was to meet tough production goals and lower-cost mandates that Blankenship himself played a major role in developing.
“There was an understanding that a certain number of safety violations were going to be written that could have been prevented,” Blanchard told jurors. “I believe there was an understanding that it was less money to pay the fines for the safety violations than the cost of preventing the violations.”
Asked if Blankenship participated in this understanding, Blanchard testified, “I think he shared the same opinion.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby questioned Blanchard for about three hours Thursday afternoon…