Punish Individuals, Not Just Companies

After Alpha Natural Resources bought the Massey Energy Co., it paid a whopping $210 million to settle safety violations by the old firm, including those at the Upper Big Branch Mine, where 29 men died in a 2010 explosion.

But Booth Goodwin, U.S. attorney for the southern district of West Virginia, continues to investigate individuals who may have aided and abetted safety violations at the mines. Two former Massey officials have been prosecuted.

This week it was revealed David C. Hughart, who formerly was president of some Massey subsidiaries, is cooperating with federal authorities and may plead guilty to criminal charges.

Goodwin and his staff are to be commended for pursuing the people responsible for safety violations at Massey mines. That, not massive fines against corporations, is the best way to send a message to mining officials that encouraging unsafe practices will not be tolerated.