Tilting at Windmills

January/February 2012 Justice in coal country

By Charles Peters

God bless D. Booth Goodwin II. He’s the U.S. attorney who, at long last, really stuck it to a coal company. After years of token penalties that have been far too small to motivate the companies to make their mines safe, the $209 million he got from Alpha Coal—the successor to Massey Energy, the company responsible for the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine two years ago—is forty times the amount of the highest penalty in the past. The next step for Goodwin (as Diane Sawyer, alone among network anchors reporting the settlement, made clear) is to nail Don Blankenship and the other Massey executives responsible for the practices that led to the disaster.

Charles Peters is the founding editor of the Washington Monthly and the author of a new book on Lyndon B. Johnson published by Times Books.