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Upper Big Branch Mine Report: ‘Deviant Practices’ By Massey Energy

4:46 am in Uncategorized by Chuckie Corra

Untitled by uʌ, on Flick

 

Davitt McAteer was commissioned to lead an independent investigation into the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, an explosion in the Massey operated mine in Raleigh County, W.VA that killed 29 miners last April.  McAteer and his team finished their investigation and released the information to the families of the miners who perished in the disaster.  What they found was staggering, but to many it wasn’t surprising.  Many believed, as I have pointed out previously and thus subscribed to, that Massey Energy was to blame for the explosion.  Massey ran a non-union mine (to which former-CEO Don Blankenship proudly proclaimed) in Raleigh County, and appeared to disregard many safety regulations that culminated in the worst coal-mine disaster that the United States has seen in 40 years.  Coal Tattoo has provided a lot of information about the investigation panel’s findings and the subsequent reactions from the press etc.  The McAteer investigation team produced a lot of information that was compiled over the past several months, but the bottom line of the investigation clearly sticks out.

The bottom line in McAteer’s report:

The explosion was the result of failures of basic safety systems identified and codified to protect the lives of miners.

The disaster at Upper Big Branch was man-made and could have been prevented.

(Source: Coal Tattoo)

The bottom line: It could have been prevented.  Massey Energy’s negligence was a key player leading into the deaths of those West Virginia miners.  In a press release provided by the Coal Tattoo blog, McAteer’s investigation panel had this to say:

Such total and catastrophic systemic failures can only be explained in the context of a culture in which wrongdoing became acceptable, where deviation became the norm. In such a culture it was acceptable to mine coal with insufficient air; with buildups of coal dust; with inadequate rock dust. The same culture allowed Massey Energy to use its resources to create a false public image to mislead the public, community leaders and investors — the perception that the company exceeded industry safety standards. And it became acceptable to cast agencies designed to protect miners as enemies and to make life difficult for miners who tried to address safety. It is only in the context of a culture bent on production at the expense of safety that these obvious deviations from decades of known safety practices makes sense.

This is a quickly developing story with more information to come soon.

Don Blankenship’s Coal-Dust Covered Golden Parachute

9:09 pm in Uncategorized by Chuckie Corra

Corporate Golden Parachute, from Essg on Flickr

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship announced his retirement rather suddenly earlier this month, much to the pleasure of environmental activists in West Virginia.  Though the realist in me believes his successor will be a carbon-copy of him, I’m grateful nonetheless that this truly despicable man is out of the head spot at Massey.

But Blankenship isn’t leaving empty-handed.  His astronomical retirement package, which ABC News coins a golden parachute, sets him up nicely with a house to live in (paid for by the company of course) for the rest of his life, fruitful stock options, and roughly $18,000/month for the next 10 years of his life.

The full breadth of Blankenship’s retirement package is still not known, but the web site Footnoted.com laid out some of the terms in an item posted this morning, including what it says is a $5.7 million pension, generous stock options, and $27.2 million from a deferred-compensation account, “a combination of pay he set aside and interest Massey has promised to pay him on those sums.” The web site also noted that the free housing Blankenship has enjoyed during his tenure as CEO will continue into his retirement, as will the company’s agreement to handle any income taxes he would owe for getting use of the house.

All this comes after a tenure which saw the controversial coal boss receive $38.2 million total compensation in the last three years alone, $26.7 million of it in cash, Footnoted reports.

Massey Energy officials declined to comment directly on the terms of Blankenship’s retirement. But the press release issued by the company notes that the coal mining giant has done very well under Blankenship’s tenure.

[Source: ABC News]

Blankenship leaves the company amidst a disastrous mine explosion that occurred last April, the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster.  The explosion killed nearly 30 miners, and Mr. Blankenship is refusing to testify in front of MSHA investigators over the causes of the accident.  Guilty conscience much?  Surely we’d have to believe so.  Blankenship has caused a boatload of controversy and negative attention toward Massey Energy, one of the largest coal producers in the United States.

Blankenship’s leaving signifies a move away from the controversial figure for the company, and the mining disaster still has yet to be settled completely.  The people of West Virginia, and specifically those who were affected firsthand by the mine explosion, are left answer-less as Blankenship takes the easy way out.  A pathetic coal baron indeed.

Don Blankenship To Retire as CEO Of Massey Energy

3:52 pm in Uncategorized by Chuckie Corra

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) . . . Read the rest of this entry →

700-Person Lawsuit Against Massey Energy For Poisoned Water

3:03 am in Energy, Environment by Chuckie Corra

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, recently facing intense pressure for his company's operations in West Virginia (From Rainforest Action Network on Flickr)

Mingo County, West Virginia is a very rural area to the great Mountain State, and one synonymous with coal country.  Mingo County is also the home to an alleged crime committed by coal giant Massey Energy.  Nearly 700 plaintiffs have come forward to file suit against Massey for poisoning their water supplies and leading to devastating and life-altering health defects.

The contamination is said to come from the coal slurries that Massey has created. The slurries are a result of coal companies, like Massey, who wash the coal so it burns more efficiently.  The resulting water that comes from the washing process is called coal slurry.

The plaintiffs in the case are claiming that Massey has poisoned their water wells with water from the coal slurries, and has led to several life-long health problems.

Specifically, a woman named Christina Doyle has filed suit and has serious reason to do so.  Doyle’s daughter was born without a pituitary gland, and suffers from several hormonal problems and learning difficulties.  Others have lost family members to health problems that they believe are a result of Massey’s coal slurry-contaminated water supply.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Massey Energy Gets Their Way as Fight For Mine Safety Legislation Continues

1:05 am in Uncategorized by Chuckie Corra

It seems as though corporations always get what they want nowadays, and corporate coal giant Massey Energy is no exception. You may remember Massey Energy and CEO Don Blankenship from several of my previous entries, where the negligence of the company’s elite has left many unanswered questions and suspicions of corruption after one of their mines, the Upper Big Branch, had an explosion that eventually resulted in the death of 29 miners.

The same mine which was the site of such a horrific disaster is undergoing an investigation over the causes of the actual explosion…BY MASSEY ENERGY. Yes, that’s correct. Massey Energy is planning on conducting their own investigation and, as WV Gazette’s Coal Tattoo puts it, were recently "given the OK by the Manchin Administration."

Massey Energy Company today announced that mine safety officials for the state of West Virginia have approved the Company’s plan to conduct its own investigation to determine the cause of the April 5, 2010 explosion at Upper Big Branch. The Company will begin its investigation as soon as it receives approval from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, which is currently reviewing the plan.

(Source: Massey Energy press release found on Coal Tattoo)  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Rally Against Mountaintop Removal in DC This Weekend

8:14 pm in Energy, Environment by Chuckie Corra


(A Typical Mountaintop Removal Site, via Synthia Alva at Flickr)

I have lived in West Virginia my entire life. In this beautiful mountainous state, one economic horse drives the economy: Coal. Coal mines employ many people in West Virginia, and across Appalachia, and are a crucial part to the region’s economic sustainability. It is coal that employs the people and powers the country, and it isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

-A little bit of background is necessary-

Most can probably remember the horrible Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster earlier this year in Raleigh County, WV. The devastating catastrophe left many dead, and federal investigators searching for answers to the root causes of the explosion. Now I’ve done my fair share of blasting Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship (Massey Energy is one of the largest coal companies in the country) on the Seminal, but it has been completely necessary. The negligence with which his mines are handled have cost the lives of several miners. This is only one of many unfortunate consequences brought on by coal mining in the region known as Appalachia.

Mountaintop Removal Mining (MTR) is a cheaper and more efficient way of mining coal, and works exactly like it sounds. Mountains, quite literally, have the tops blown off of them in order to expedite the coal mining process and make it more efficient. The mental image itself does quite a lot to illustrate the horrible effects it has on the mountains. Where once beautiful rolling hills full of plush green forest stood, now appears as leveled off dirt "quarry-like" areas of surface mining.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Obama Prays and Massey Pays, But Will Either Make a Difference?

1:15 pm in Energy, Government, Politics, Religion, Republican Party by Chuckie Corra

President Obama has quite a resume. He is a secret Muslim, a Kenyan-born POTUS, wants to pull the plug on Grandma, and loves socialism… it’s all in a day’s work when you’re the leader of the free world, right? I haven’t personally seen the actual job description and application for President of the United States of America, but I have my suspicions that proving you are a God-fearing devout Christian doesn’t reside on the documents. Full-disclosure: This is an assumption and I have never actually seen the job description.

Being a rational human being (at least, that’s what I consider myself to be), I assume that it goes without saying that you can run and be president regardless of your religious beliefs or affiliations among any church (and for that matter, lack of beliefs). Why do I assume this? Well, there is this little quip in a document that you may have heard of.  It’s pretty old, so it’s understandable if you’ve never read it. It’s reprinted a lot, A LOT! No, it’s not the Holy Bible or Anne Frank’s Diary. Its current home is the National Archives in Washington D.C. It was written awhile ago, before Google, Nintendo, and abortion were invented to occupy our time and thought. Let me share the key little snippet with you readers back home and see if it rings a bell.

Amendment 1: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

(Source: United States Constitution, via USConstitution.net)

The cat is definitely out of the bag now. Yes, the Constitution. The Mecca of American Roots (see the irony? I used Mecca…a reference to Islamic culture). The document concocted many years ago that established the United States’ platform for a free society government. Granted, this was an amendment and not technically part of the very first official draft of the Constitution, but as well all know the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and is to be upheld by Congress, the Supreme Court, and the POTUS himself. Why, then, is there even a concern about Barack Obama’s religious affiliations? Was George W. Bush ever questioned about his religious beliefs after he explicitly stated several times that he was, indeed, a Christian? What about Clinton? Reagan? Everyone’s favorite punching bag Jimmy Carter? Millard Fillmore??? . . . Read the rest of this entry →

WV: More Massey Madness and the ongoing Paradox of MTR Oppositions

9:00 am in Uncategorized by Chuckie Corra

If you live near the West Virginia coal fields and mines, you certainly know what the acronym MTR stands for. If you live in West Virginia at all and keep youself even slightly in tune with the "goings on" of the state, then chances are great that you will be familiar with the three-letter phrase yourself.

MTR is short for the dreaded MountainTop Removal mining method that quite literally lives up to its namesake. It ravages and rapes the state of its natural beauty while causing numerous unintended health and environmental effects hazardous to the way of life of the people living near these sites. The Mountain State is quickly turning into the plateau, bluff, and coal slurry state without much opposition from those who lead the state in Washington and in Charleston.

Recently the EPA has issued more guidelines in regards to the mining technique

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just posted a new guidance document for Appalachian strip mining on its Web site.

It’s called “Assessment of Stream Ecosystem Structure and Function Under Clean Water Act Section 404 Associated with Review of Permits for Appalachian Surface Coal Mining.”

Neither EPA nor the Army Corps of Engineers have formally announced the issuance of this guidance, which appears to have been posted pretty late on a Friday afternoon.

But the issues dealt with in the guidance are the same as those raised in a March 2007 ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers: Whether government agency reviews of mining permits adequately consider impacts on not just the “structure” of streams, but also the important ecological “functions” served by those streams

Source: Gazette’s Coal Tattoo

Read the rest of this entry →

WV-03: Blankenship’s Buddy Receives Campaign Cash from Palin’s PAC

5:56 pm in Uncategorized by Chuckie Corra

The third district congressional race in West Virginia is pretty safe on the democratic side. Nick Rahall (D) has held the seat for decades and doesn’t plan on relinquishing it to anyone. The legitimate competitor from the Republican side is Elliott "Spike" Maynard. I’ve mentioned Maynard previously in my blogs about Massey Energy and the coal baron known as Don Blankenship.

Maynard, a former WV Supreme Court of Appeals judge, cast a few controversial votes in favor of Massey Energy and Blankenship across his time on the court. This was controversial mainly because he is close friends with Blankenship, and even vacationed along the French Riviera together with him.

The Charleston Gazette recently reported that Sarah Palin’s PAC donated a pretty generous $3,500 to his campaign for House of Representatives. (Maynard also received money from several other groups including Shelley Moore Capito)

Elliott "Spike" Maynard, his Republican opponent, raised $133,776. Maynard won the Republican congressional primary on May 11.

During the 2009-10 election cycle, the Keep Nick Rahall in Congress Committee has raised $778,624, while Spike Maynard for Congress has raised $186,026.

At the end of the current reporting period on June 30, Rahall, a Democrat, had nearly $1.6 million in his campaign coffers, while Maynard had $114,510.

The Committee to Re-Elect Joe Manchin gave Rahall $1,000.

Sarah Palin’s SARAH-PAC gave Maynard $3,500 and Shelley Moore Capito for Congress gave him $2,000.

Charleston Gazette

As a West Virginian not wanting a coal crony officially in Congress, I oppose Maynard and his battle for House of Representatives. Sarah Palin, clearly no opponent of coal or advocate for clean energy sources, will apparently donate to anyone with an R next to their name. Maynard is the textbook example of corruption if you look at him from the standpoint of his time on the court with respect to the Massey decisions.

Personally, a friend of Don Blankenship is the last thing West Virginia (or the country) needs in Congress.

Massey Energy In the Hot Seat Again

2:00 pm in Uncategorized by Chuckie Corra

As sad as it truly is, I am no longer surprised when I read horrific headlines about Massey Energy. Since the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, Massey Energy and Don Blankenship have become synonymous with neglect, crookedness, and wrong-doings. This recent headline, found on Charleston Gazette’s Coal Tattoo, is certainly no different. The headline reads "NPR report: Massey Energy ordered methane detector disabled at Upper Big Branch Mine."

Now, it has been awhile since I’ve posted on the Seminal about Blankenship or Massey. (Due to African excursions and summer jobs, I’ve had my hands quite full the past few months. However, for those of you who are first time readers or who may not remember, here is a refresher on some things.

First off, the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster in Raleigh County West Virginia was one of the biggest mining disasters the US has seen in a very long time. Massey Energy and Don Blankenship were not seen in a very bright light afterwards.

Read the rest of this entry →