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Archive for the ‘Massey Energy Co’ Category

FBI Investigating Fed Officials And Massey Energy Over Possibly Bribery

AP/The Huffington Post First Posted: 04-30-10 11:19 AM   |   Updated: 04-30-10 11:40 AM

NPR News reports that the FBI is investigating the possible bribery of federal officials overseeing mining industry regulation by Massey Energy, the owner of the Upper Big Branch mine that exploded three weeks ago, killing 29 miners.

“The Mine Safety and Health Administration is the target of a federal criminal investigation,” NPR notes, and “FBI agents are also exploring potential criminal negligence on the part of Massey Energy.”

The nation’s top mine safety official told lawmakers earlier this week that the government will start going directly to federal court to shut down mines that make a habit of ignoring safety.

Joe Main, director of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, said his agency has had the power to seek federal injunctions for years, but has never tried to use it.

“I can’t speak for past administrations,” Main said during the Senate’s first hearing on the accident that killed 29 men. “We’re going to use it.”

Main also called for a slew of other legal and regulatory reforms to beef up safety enforcement in the wake of this month’s deadly explosion at a mine in West Virginia.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee convened the hearing to look at weaknesses in current laws that encourage mine operators and companies in other industries to challenge safety violations to delay stiffer penalties.

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Don Blankenship: Investors, Politicians Begin Calling For Massey Head To Resign

First Posted: 04-12-10 07:18 PM   |   Updated: 04-12-10 08:28 PM

The calls to oust Massey Energy Company Chairman and CEO Don Blankenship began in earnest Monday, with members of both the private and public sectors getting involved.

The CtW Investment Group sent a letter to Massey’s board of directors Monday afternoon demanding Blankenship’s resignation in the wake of the disastrous explosion at the company’s Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia.

CtW had previously warned the board that its minimal oversight over Blankenship’s regime exposed Massey and its shareholders to “unnecessary legal, regulatory, and reputational risks” — apparently vindicated in that judgment, the investment group deems the Upper Big Branch disaster a “tragic consequence” of Blankenship’s “confrontational approach to regulatory compliance.”

He’s not fond of investigative reporters, either. Check out his reaction to an ABC News camera crew at about the one-minute mark:

Earlier Monday, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli likewise called for Blankenship’s resignation. And DiNapoli is no idle politico: As the sole trustee of New York’s Common Retirement Fund, he has direct control over some 303,550 shares of Massey stock, valued at $14.1 million.

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Massey Energy & Don Blankenship: Million-dollar Tea Party sponsors

Crooks & Liars- By karoli Tuesday Apr 06, 2010 9:00am

Meet Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy Company. Blankenship is also on the Board of Directors of the US Chamber of Commerce. In this speech above, he denies climate change, derisively refers to Speaker Pelosi, Senator Reid, and others as “greeniacs”, and calls them all crazy. Watch the speech, you’ll see. In his mind, “the greeniacs are taking over the world.”

Massey Energy Company, Blankenship’s highly successful strip-mining and mountaintop removal operation is the parent company of Performance Coal Co, where a tragic explosion occurred on April 5th. As of this writing, 25 miners have died and 4 more are still missing. Twenty-five families are without a loved one. Four more may discover they have lost someone they love too. 29 families in all, forever changed by one single, violent event in a coal mine. One single violent event in a coal mine run by a company so obsessed with profit it runs roughshod over employees’ and neighbors’ health and safety.

Here’s something else about Don Blankenship and Massey Energy Company: Blankenship spent over $1 million dollars along with other US Chamber buddies like Verizon to sponsor last year’s Labor Day Tea Party, also known as the “Friends of America Rally.” Here’s Massey’s pitch. Note how he makes it sound like he isn’t one of the corporate enemies of America.

The Friends of America Rally featured such notables as Sean Hannity, Ted Nugent, and Hank Williams, Jr., and was graced by Blankenship himself going off on a diatribe that seemed strange at the time, but has come to be commonplace these days. It concerned President Obama, Democrats, and any one who doesn’t salute God, coal, and apple pie. Oh, and we’re also going to ‘steal their jobs,’ if Hannity is to be believed.

Blankenship and Massey Energy spend millions to defend unsafe workplaces

Even while coal dust settles on nearby schoolchildren, there are lessons to learn from this disaster about Massey Energy in general, and Don Blankenship in particular.

It seems that Performance Coal’s safety record is spotty, at best. From the Mississippi Business Journal:

Massey ranks among the nation’s top five coal producers and is among the industry’s most profitable. It has a spotty safety record.

The federal mine safety administration fined Massey a then-record $1.5 million for 25 violations that inspectors concluded contributed to the deaths of two miners trapped in a fire in January 2006. The company later settled a lawsuit naming it, several subsidiaries and Chief Executive Don Blankenship as defendants. Aracoma Coal Co. later paid $2.5 million in fines after the company pleaded guilty to 10 criminal charges in the fire.

Massey and Blankenship also settled a lawsuit brought by the Manville Trust in 2007 with regard to workplace safety and environmental compliance.

The Manville Trust filed the case in July 2007 against company Chairman, CEO, and President Don Blankenship and certain other current and former officers and directors. The plaintiff sought several corporate governance reforms, specifically regarding environmental compliance and worker safety. Citing several incidents involving Massey Energy, including a major federal water pollution lawsuit, penalties for two coal miners’ tragic deaths and other safety and environmental compliance problems, the lawsuit claimed that a “conscious failure” by the defendants to ensure compliance with federal and state regulations and other legal obligations posed a “substantial threat of monetary liability for violations.”

Keep unions out, let teabaggers in

Don Blankenship inhabits a strange and bizarre world. In his world:

  • It’s fine for elementary school-age children to inhale coal dust while playing at school because Massey Coal “already pays millions of dollars in taxes each year”.
  • Blankenship truly believes that government regulation means “we all better learn to speak Chinese.”
  • He has absolutely no problem paying $3 million to elect state Supreme Court justice Brent Benjamin just ahead of a scheduled hearing of his appeal to overturn a large damage award for driving competitor Harman Mining Corporation into bankruptcy.
  • Blankenship will spend millions to keep the Massey Energy’s workforce non-union, is perfectly happy to discriminate against union workers even if it means being sued and losing, and might hate unions as much as he hates ‘greeniacs’.

    This is the same mine where the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently ruled that Spartan Mining illegally discriminated against 82 UMWA members by refusing to hire them because of their union membership status.

    “This settlement highlights yet again the treacherous and backhanded manner Massey treated the miners who had worked at the Cannelton mine for decades,” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “While it was discriminating against these experienced miners because of their age or union status, the company was at the same time publicly crying about the lack of experienced miners in the coalfields.

    “But it wasn’t that Massey couldn’t find experienced miners,” Roberts said. “They were there all along and wanted to work. It was that the company would rather break the law than allow its employees to have a strong voice at work and the tremendous benefits of a union contract.

Penny-wise, pound-foolish. An investment in experienced workers trained in state-of-the art safety measures combined with OSHA compliance and mine safety measures might have saved at least 25, and possibly 29 lives.

Instead Don Blankenship spent that money and more on a US Chamber of Commerce corporate-sponsored tea party to convince good, hard-working honest people to work against their best interests.

I hope those families take a large pound of flesh from him in return.

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Rachel Maddow: Taking the Human Cost Out of the Cost of Mining Coal

Crooks & Liars- By Heather Thursday Apr 08, 2010 9:00am

Rachel Maddow recounts the horrid safety record of Massey Energy and how the CEO of Massey Energy spent over $3 million to get his choice of Supreme Court Justice elected in West Virginia, who as Rachel Maddow noted, then ruled in Blankenship’s favor for his company and their safety violations, surprise, surprise.

Rachel talked to Jeff Biggers, author of Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland about the core of the problems with the coal mining industry which is more worried about profit than the worker’s lives. As Biggers pointed out, virtually all of the major accidents in the coal industry have taken place in non-union mines, and he pointed out that Massey Industry is not only one of the worst companies for their safety record, but also for “breaking up the unions in the 1980’s and 1990’s” and added this about what kind of difference unions make when it comes to mining safety.

BIGGERS: You know, that‘s a wonderful point to make. Virtually, all the major accidents and disasters have taken place in non-union mines. And really, Massey Energy is infamous not only for their state of violations both with underground and but also surface mining, but the fact that they really were part and parcel of being aggressive about breaking up the unions in the 1980s and the 1990s. And this is ultimately what we‘re paying for.

You know, in the old days, Rachel, or in a union mine, you had union fire bosses who came in, who pointed out the violations. And it was a brotherhood to really make sure that those violations were corrected and you have a safer mine, because those were members of the union that were in there.

Today, we have less than 20 percent of our coal miners, estimated, who actually are with the United Mine Workers or any sort of union. And ultimately now, we‘re paying the price. You know, that‘s the problem. The coal companies and their representatives who do any kind of inspections outside of federal inspectors, they see regulations as just obstacles to production. They don‘t realize that regulations are about human lives. It‘s about protecting American citizens and the coal miners.

Full transcript via MSNBC below the fold.

MORE HERE

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Coal River Mountain, WV

For eighth day, climate activists block bulldozers at WV’s Coal River Mountain.

Think Progress- By Brad Johnson on Jan 28th, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Yesterday [Wednesday] in Washington, DC, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) exhorted citizens to “get angry about the fact that they’re being killed and our planet is being injured by what’s happening on a daily basis by the way we provide our power and our fuel.” In West Virginia, climate activists are not just getting angry, they’re taking action — blocking the demolition of Coal River Mountain by coal company Massey Energy. The activists, members of the aptly named organization Climate Ground Zero, have been living in trees for over a week to prevent bulldozers from reaching the summit:

High up in the trees near the summit of Coal River Mountain, two activists dangle in the air near a mountaintop removal mine site. Eric Blevins and Amber Nitchman are still preventing the expansion of mining on the summit of Coal River Mountain, a mountain that has the best wind energy (and therefore economic) potential in the area.

Employees of coal baron Don Blankenship, the “scariest polluter in the United States,” have been blasting the tree-sit activists with air horns and flood lights. Following hundreds of phone calls from supporters of the non-violent civil disobedience action, Gov. Joe Manchin (D-WV) met today with Climate Ground Zero representatives and “asked the activists to scale down their campaign.”

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. takes on mountaintop mining magnate Don Blankenship

Grist Magazine-  by David Roberts 22 Jan 2010 2:47 AM

On Thursday the University of Charleston in West Virginia hosted a debate between Don Blankenship, CEO of mountaintop-removal mining firm Massey Energy Co., and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., environmental lawyer and founder of the Waterkeeper Alliance. I kept up a running play-by-play that can be accessed by scrolling back through my Twitter feed, but I didn’t take notes, so this is from memory and I won’t be using direct quotes.

The mystery to me going in was why Blankenship agreed to it. What possible incentive is there for a corporate CEO to put himself in a risky situation, publicly defending a widely reviled product? What’s the upside? Why not just buy some ads or hire more lobbyists?

Having watched the debate, I’m more mystified than ever. If that was supposed to be damage control, I’d hate to see damage. Blankenship had every advantage, with a friendly hometown crowd eager to applaud him and a moderator who helpfully read off pro-coal facts during commercial breaks, but he was painfully and obviously outmatched by Kennedy. I guess it’s easy to get over-confident when you’ve effectively purchased a state government and broken the law with impunity for years.

He didn’t seem even cursorily prepared. Kennedy reeled off fact after fact about declining mining employment in WV, the age of Appalachian ecosystems and the impossibility of recovering them after MTR mining damage, the enormous health and economic impacts of coal on Appalachia, the size of Chinese investments in clean energy, the number of Clean Water Act violations from Massey, and on and on and on. Every fact was geared toward a plea to West Virginians: look, this man is making himself rich by making you poor. He’s sapping your state of jobs, income, health, and a future.

In response Blankenship had nothing but ressentiment and nativism. Over and over he dismissed Kennedy’s facts as “rhetoric” and “just false” claims that “you can find on the internet,” but not once did he refute or even convincingly contest a particular claim. He asked the audience to dismiss them based purely on crude stereotypes about out-of-state environmentalists.

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