Massey Fined $4.2 Million for Deadly Aracoma Mine Fire 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 25 Dec 2008 02:08:00 GMT

Coal giant Massey Energy was fined Tuesday $2.5 million in criminal fines and $1.7 million in civil fines for a deadly 2006 mine fire controlled by its subsidiary, Aracoma Coal Co.

From Reuters:
A subsidiary of Massey Energy, Aracoma Coal Co, will pay $4.2 million for safety violations that led to the deaths of two miners in 2006.

“The global settlement is the largest financial settlement in the coal industry’s history,” the Justice Department said in a statement on Tuesday.

Federal mine inspectors decided to ignore violations to “let them run coal.”

Minness Justice, an inspector with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, told fellow MSHA employee Danny Woods that he believed dangerous amounts of spilled coal and dust had been allowed to accumulate along the belt line, raising the risk of a fire, and that the belt’s fire suppression system was inadequate, Mr. Woods said.

“He was just told to back off and let them run coal, that there was too much demand for coal,” Mr. Woods said. “He came up and told me he was told to do certain things and the inspectors before him hadn’t done a proper job.”

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship also decided to ignore violations to allow the miners to continue to “run coal.”
Blankenship involved himself in “day to day decisions” about how the Aracoma Mine would be run, including an October 2005 note in which Blankenship told mine managers to ignore anyone who tells them their job is to do anything except “run coal.”

Massey's Blankenship Calls Critics 'Communists,' 'Atheists,' And 'Greeniacs' 1

Posted by Wonk Room Mon, 24 Nov 2008 23:50:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Last Thursday, Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, the fourth largest United States coal company, described his critics as “communists,” “atheists,” and “greeniacs.” In an address before the Tug Valley Mining Institute in Williamson, WV, Blankenship said those who criticize him are “our enemies” like Osama bin Laden:
It is as great a pleasure for me to be criticized by the communists and the atheists of the Charleston Gazette as to be applauded by my best friends. Because I know they are wrong. People are cowering away from being criticized by people that are our enemies. Would we be upset if Osama bin Laden was critical of us?
These are actually mild words for Don Blankenship. This spring, Blankenship was caught on tape threatening to shoot an ABC reporter and then assaulting him:
The Charleston Gazette’s coverage of Don Blankenship has included these controversial stories:
  • The Fatal Aracoma Mine Fire. In the months before the fatal 2006 fire at the Aracoma mine, which had 25 violations of health and safety laws, Blankenship personally waived company policy and told mine managers to ignore rules and “run coal.”
  • Political Corruption. Blankenship has spent millions of dollars to influence West Virginia judgeships and state legislative races, and palled around in Monte Carlo with state Supreme Court Chief Justice Elliott “Spike” Maynard and their “female friends” in July 2006. The state court reversed a $77 million verdict against Massey in 2008.
  • Mountaintop Removal. Massey Energy is the king of the incredibly destructive practice of mountaintop removal mining. The Bush Administration (which includes former Massey officials) overturned Clinton-era rules limiting the practice. Massey now plans to destroy Coal River Mountain despite lacking necessary permits.
Blankenship sits on the boards of the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Mining Association, who are running multimillion-dollar campaigns to block global warming regulations and fight the Employee Free Choice Act. Blankenship claimed that global warming skeptics like himself are being silenced by “greeniacs,” and called Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, and Harry Reid “totally wrong” and “absolutely crazy”:
How many times have the people in this room heard, at the US Chamber of Commerce or at the National Mining Association, “I don’t believe in climate change, but I’m afraid to say that because it is a political reality”? The greeniacs are taking over the world.

Suboleski Nomination Withdrawn

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 27 Feb 2008 21:27:00 GMT

Former Massey Energy executive Stanley Suboleski, who was nominated by the president to be the Department of Energy assistant secretary for fossil energy, was scheduled for his nomination hearing before the Senate today. The Office of Fossil Energy funds advanced coal technology efforts and recently received fire for discontinuing the FutureGen coal-tech initiative.

E&E News reports that the White House withdrew his nomination last night, saying that Suboleski asked to be withdrawn “for personal reasons” Monday afternoon.

JW Randolph, Appalachian Voices Legislative Associate, made the following statement before his withdrawal was made public:
In 2000 in Martin County Kentucky, despite repeated warnings about the serious violations where the impoudment broke, Massey Energy was responsible for a slurry spill that was 30 times larger than the Exxon Valdez disaster. The EPA called it the “worst environmental disaster in the history of the Southeast.” Massey called it “an Act of God.”

Now, President Bush wants to promote a Massey Executive to “Assistant Secretary of Energy (fossil energy).” While we are extremely disappointed, we can’t act as though we are surprised. The promotion of Stanley Suboeski is consistent with the Bush Administration’s vigorous efforts to remove every shred of responsibility and decency from the process of extracting coal, ignoring the human cost at every turn.

By promoting mountaintop removal mining, the Bush Administration and Massey Energy have transferred the dangers inherent in coal-mining from the professional miners doing the work onto the surrounding civilian communnities who now have to deal daily with fly rock, poisoned water, and toxic coal waste. Putting Stan Suboleski at the top of the fossil energy food chain is yet another reckless example of the President rewarding his friends and contributors in the fossil fuel industry, and ignoring the true cost of coal to the people in the Appalachian region.

The nominations of Stanley C. Suboleski, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy (Fossil Energy), and J. Gregory Copeland, of Texas, to be General Counsel, both of the Department of Energy

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 27 Feb 2008 14:45:00 GMT

The White House withdrew Stanley Suboleski’s nomination the night before the hearing, saying that Suboleski asked for his nomination to be withdrawn “for personal reasons” Monday afternoon.