Court appearance for ex-coal CEO charged in 2010 West Virginia mine disaster that killed 29

Energy Associated Press

An ex-top executive facing charges in the deadliest U.S. coal mine accident in four decades is headed to court.

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Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is scheduled for a first appearance Thursday at 1 p.m. in Beckley, West Virginia. U.S. Magistrate Judge R. Clarke VanDervort will oversee the arraignment hearing.

Blankenship is accused of conspiring to violate safety and health standards at Upper Big Branch Mine. In April 2010, an explosion at the Montcoal, West Virginia, mine killed 29 men.

The 64-year-old Blankenship faces up to 31 years in prison if convicted. His attorney has said he is innocent.

U.S. District Court Judge Irene C. Berger in Beckley has been assigned Blankenship's case. She has ordered that no parties, or even victims, discuss it with the media or release court documents.