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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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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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