Don Blankenship, who will now be known as the former-CEO of Massey Energy (From BillRhodesPhoto on flickr)

“He was like a caricature of all that was wrong with the industry today,” said Cindy Rank, longtime mining chairwoman for the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

This quote, from a recent Charleston Gazette article, pretty much sums up my feelings (as well as many others) about Don Blankenship.

The coal baron’s days are finally coming to an end.  Don Blankenship officially announced his retirement.  Massey Energy is one of the largest coal producing companies and is based in Richmond, VA.  Blankenship was at the helm of Massey during the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster earlier this year, which caused a firestorm of controversy and many claiming that Blankenship had blood on his hands.

Blankenship has been the head of this company for several years, and has overseen the destruction of several mountains across Appalachia.  These mountains will never be seen again and are the result of the controversial practice that Massey finds themselves employing a lot nowadays, Mountaintop Removal Mining.  Mountaintop Removal (MTR) is literally what it sounds like, blowing off the tops of mountains, and has been a crucial contributor to ruining the landscape of Appalachia, contributing to several health related hazards due to coal slurries, and innumerable other complications across the area where it is practiced. Blankenship is one that seems to be solely driven by the dollar signs and nothing else.  On this day we bid him a farewell, and hope to never hear of the man again.

I caught word of this story from the Charleston Gazette’s fantastic blog on coal and its influence on West Virginia, Coal Tattoo.

The Board of Directors of Massey Energy Company (NYSE: MEE) today announced that its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Don Blankenship, will retire from the company effective December 30, 2010. Mr. Blankenship has led Massey Energy as Chairman and CEO since 2000, and he’s been with the company since 1982.

Baxter F. Phillips Jr., President of Massey Energy, will succeed Mr. Blankenship as Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Phillips has been with Massey Energy since 1981. Admiral Bobby Inman, Lead Independent Director on the Massey Board, will succeed Mr. Blankenship as Non-Executive Chairman. He has been a Director since 1985.

In a statement, Mr. Blankenship said: “After almost three decades at Massey it is time for me to move on. Baxter and I have worked together for 28 years and he will provide the company great executive leadership. Most of all, I want to thank the Members of Massey Energy whose hard work supports not only their own families, but also contributes greatly to the entire community of Central Appalachia.”

(Coal Tattoo) . . .

I am overjoyed that Don Blankenship won’t be at the head of Massey Energy anymore, but my optimism is overshadowed by reality.  I highly doubt their business practices will be altered very much with this changing of the guards.  As it reads in the blockquote, Blankenship and his successor (Baxter Phillips) have been very close and appear to be good friends.  I doubt Blankenship would leave his company under the control of someone with a much different view of operations.

Anyone not familiar with the corruption and crookedness that is synonymous with Blankenship is encouraged to do even a small google search.  The lack of adherence to safety regulations in the mines run by Massey is frightening and dangerous.  Blankenship is a union-buster by heart, and a money-making man by practice.  Despite the inevitability of his successor being similar to him, it is still a good day because the true intrinsic evil associated with Blankenship will no longer be present in the corner-offices of Massey Energy.