Blankenship may face $28 million fine for coal mine disaster

Donald Blankenship, the former CEO of now-defunct Massey Energy, is now facing a $28-million fine in addition to up to a year in prison for his role in the Upper Big Branch mine blast.

Alpha Natural Resources (OTCMKTS:ANRZQ), the coal company that bought Massey Energy, asked a federal judge in West Virginia to order Blankenship to pay restitution for the deadly 2010 coal mine explosion that killed 29 workers. The legal fees and fines total $28 million, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

However Blankenship and his legal team say the fines are out of proportion to the misdemeanour he was convicted of in December.

"This is an unprecedented attempt to add Draconian penalties to an offense that Congress has classified as a misdemeanour, and Alpha has no right to recover any of these expenditures from Mr. Blankenship,” his lawyers said in a March 7 court filing.

Members of a West Virginia jury in December found Blankenship guilty of conspiring to commit mine safety violations relating to the explosion. He was found not guilty of making false statements to federal regulators and securities fraud and Blankenship now only faces up to one year in prison on the conspiracy charge which is a misdemeanour.

Blankenship is slated to be sentenced April 6.