don blankenship

Sun, 2014-04-13 08:31Ben Jervey
Ben Jervey's picture

Never Again: Don Blankenship-Funded Video Absolves Don Blankenship in Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster Deaths

Don Blankenship's hubris is surpassed only by his greed.

The “Dark Lord of Coal Country, as the former CEO of Massey Energy has been called, is using the fourth anniversary of the tragic Upper Big Branch Mine explosion not to honor the lives of the fallen mines, but to absolve himself of any responsibility for the 29 deaths, even having the nerve to point blame at the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

Blankenship kicked off an egotistical PR blitz by releasing a so-called documentary, titled “Upper Big Branch: Never Again.” The video was funded by Blankenship himself, and proves to be more of a piece of pro-Massey propaganda than a “program that tells the facts about actual people and events,” which is how Merriam-Websters defines documentary.

The video completely dismisses criticism of Massey Energy’s management, despite the fact that multiple investigations have found the company's managers at fault for the preventable explosion and for the 29 lives lost. 

One such report, by the West Virginia Governor's Independent Investigation Panel, clearly debunks the main argument of Never Again, that a sudden and unpredictable release of methane from below the mine caused the blast. From the report (page 108):

Fri, 2013-06-07 09:42Sharon Kelly
Sharon Kelly's picture

New Documents in West Virginia Coal Lawsuit Shine Light on Judicial Corruption Allegations

“Extreme by any measure.” Those four words were used by the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark 2009 decision to describe judicial corruption and corporate influence in the West Virginia courts.

That opinion by the nation’s highest court famously reversed the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals justices who had thrown out a lawsuit against a major coal company and represented an unusually forceful reprimand of a lower court. It also symbolized a turning point for a state where coal has been king for much of the past two hundred years.

Another decision — one levied last month by the Supreme Court in neighboring Virginia — has garnered far less attention but marks yet a further blemish on West Virginia and it highlights the role that coal continues to play in politics and law in that state.

The little-noticed decision handed down by the Virginia court was a major setback to one of the coal industry's kingpins, Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy. For over a quarter of a century, Mr. Blankenship was the guiding figure and intellectual architect behind his company’s obliteration of the United Mine Workers union and the coal industry's wholesale shift toward a relatively new and environmentally-ruinous form of mining called mountaintop removal, which essentially involves blowing off the top of mountains to reveal the coal seams underneath.

Thu, 2013-06-06 08:00Sharon Kelly
Sharon Kelly's picture

The Epic Rise and Fall of Don Blankenship, former Massey Energy CEO

Three years ago, 29 miners died at the Massey Energy Upper Big Branch mine. It was the worst mining disaster in decades, caused by a methane-fueled blast that was so strong it killed miners more than a mile away and left steel rail lines tangled.

Appalachia has seen its share of these sorts of accidents over the years and normally companies get fined, but mine operators almost never face criminal charges. This time was different.

For the past two years, the U.S. Attorney in West Virginia, R. Booth Goodwin II, has been systematically working his way up Massey’s hierarchy, arguing that beyond the managers who supervised that mine, there was a broader conspiracy led by still unnamed “directors, officers, and agents.” Goodwin has based his prosecutions on conspiracy charges rather than on violations of specific health and safety regulations, which means he can reach further up into the corporate structure. So far, he has convicted four employees including the Upper Big Branch mine superintendent who admitted he disabled a methane monitor and falsified mine records.

But in February, the case took a surprising turn. In pleading guilty to conspiracy charges, Dave Hughart, former President of a Massey subsidiary who is cooperating with the government, said that the person who had alerted him to impending mine inspections was Massey’s CEO, Don Blankenship – an accusation that sent a gasp through the entire coal industry.

Fri, 2013-03-08 05:00Ben Jervey
Ben Jervey's picture

Don Blankenship, Dark Lord of Coal Country, Implicated in Upper Big Branch Mine Explosion Deaths

Just under three years ago, an explosion in the Upper Big Branch coal mine in Montcoal, West Virginia stole the lives of 29 miners. Many were quick to condemn Massey Energy – the coal giant that operated the mine – for their long record of lax safety oversight, and to bemoan the preventability of the disaster.

Blame was directed straight to the top of the company, to then-CEO Don Blankenship, “the dark lord of coal country” himself, who had grown a vile reputation in the field for systematically putting production and profit over worker safety.

Late last week, in a surprise twist during a routine plea hearing in a federal court, all that blame was seemingly justified as Blankenship was directly implicated in conspiring to skirt safety regulations. A former Massey Energy official called our his boss, Blankenship himself, for conspiring and plotting to hide safety violations from federal safety inspectors.

Fri, 2012-06-01 15:46Steve Horn
Steve Horn's picture

Massey WV Coal Battle Take Two: Erie, CO Citizens Fight Fracking

Erie, CO meet Naoma, WV. Though seemingly different battles over different ecologically hazardous extractive processes – hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for unconventional gas versus mountaintop removal for coal – the two battles are one in the same and direct parallels of one another. 

On June 2, a coalition of activist organizations led by Erie Rising and joined by the likes of the Sierra Club, the Mark Ruffalo-lead Water Defense, the Angela Monti Fox-lead Mothers Project (mother of “Gasland” Producer and Director, Josh Fox), Food and Water Watch (FWW), among others, will take to Erie, CO to say “leave and leave now” to EnCana Corporation.

EnCana has big plans to drill baby drill in Erie.

It “plans to frack for natural gas near three local schools and a childcare center,” according to a press release disseminated by FWW. “On June 2, the event in Erie will give voice to those immediately affected by fracking there, and to all Americans marred by the process, becoming ground zero for the national movement to expose the dangers associated with fracking.”

The action is a simple one: a “rally and vigil to protest gas industry giant Encana’s plans to frack for natural gas near Red Hawk Elementary, Erie Elementary, Erie Middle School and Exploring Minds Childcare Center and transport toxic fracking by-products on roads that come within feet of these and other community schools,” reads the FWW press release.

Fri, 2011-06-10 12:56Farron Cousins
Farron Cousins's picture

Massey Energy Is Not The Only Mountaintop Removal Mining Villain

This week, hundreds of protesters are marching to Blair Mountain in West Virginia to call for an end to mountaintop removal coal mining. The march commemorates the Battle of Blair Mountain – one of the most significant labor battles in American history, and one of the few times in history when a sitting U.S. president threatened to use air strikes against American citizens. The group Appalachia Rising organized the march to draw attention to the practice of mountaintop mining, which is destroying large swaths of the Appalachian Mountains. Blair Mountain was added to a list of historic U.S. sites back in 2008, but due to pressure from the coal industry, the mountain was removed from the protected list and could now be subjected to mountaintop removal mining.

Mountaintop removal mining (MTR) entails blowing the tops off of entire mountains in order to extract the coal seems within. The method became popular when coal companies realized that they could produce two and a half times as much coal per worker hour by removing the tops of mountains, rather than traditional coal mining methods. As a result, some states have reduced the number of coal workers by as much as 60%, while output and profits have remained steady.

Mon, 2011-01-03 15:20Brendan DeMelle
Brendan DeMelle's picture

Future of Coal Dims Further in 2010, But Dying Industry Still Killing and Polluting

2010 was a dark year for the dirty U.S. coal industry, with the deaths of 48 coal miners – the deadliest year in nearly two decades – and widespread recognition of the threat posed by hazardous coal ash waste to waterways nationwide. 

2011 hasn’t started off very well either, with a New Year’s Day article in the Washington Post noting the industry’s failure to begin construction on a single new coal-fired power plant in the United States for the second straight year.

An excerpt from the Post story:

“Coal is a dead man walkin’,” says Kevin Parker, global head of asset management and a member of the executive committee at Deutsche Bank. “Banks won’t finance them. Insurance companies won’t insure them. The EPA is coming after them… . And the economics to make it clean don’t work.”

Not only are the coal barons failing to build new plants, but their aging fleet is also facing a huge wave of coal-plant retirements thanks to new and emerging EPA regulations, as Grist’s Dave Roberts summarized last month. 

Nevertheless, the coal industry’s best efforts to flood Washington with lobbyists and dirty PR tricks seem to have crippled President Obama’s campaign pledge to end mountaintop removal and stalled out EPA administrator Lisa Jackson’s momentum towards regulating coal ash as the hazardous waste it surely is.

Mon, 2010-12-06 17:22Brendan DeMelle
Brendan DeMelle's picture

Want To Be The Next CEO of Massey Energy As Don Blankenship Retires?

Sierra Club pranksters have posted on Craig’s List an all-too-honest job description for anyone hoping to apply for the CEO job at Massey Energy to replace retiring CEO Don Blankenship.  Think you’re qualified to fill the shoes of one of the worst polluters in America? 

Here is the Craig’s List job description:

Massey Energy Seeks CEO


Date: 2010-12-06, 5:33PM EST
Reply to: job-a32nw-2098801382@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]


Massey Energy seeks a new Chief Executive Officer to carry on its important work destroying the environment and jeopardizing the health and safety of its employees. This position will oversee all Massey Energy operations (but don’t worry - stringent or really any oversight is not a corporate priority).

 

Key responsibilities:

-Ducking responsibility for grave accidents and enthusiastically (and with a straight face) shifting the blame to government agencies created to prevent such incidents.

-Denying climate change, hating the environment and hating anyone who might enjoy the environment.

-Trading campaign cash for congressional favor.

-Threatening members of the media.

-Personally persuading workers to abandon union organizing.

 

Tue, 2010-01-12 13:01Kevin Grandia
Kevin Grandia's picture

Massey Energy running attack ads against "tree hugging extremists"

Massey Energy (NYSE: MEE), the 4th largest coal producer in the country is running political-style attacks in West Virginia claiming that “tree hugging extremists and self-serving politicians” are killing jobs, while the coal industry is “fighting hard for Appalachian jobs” and “what’s right.”

I am assuming that when Massey talks about fighting for Appalachian jobs they aren’t referring to the fact that earlier in 2009 they cut employee pay by 6% and then recently increased the performance bonus for Massey’s CEO, Don Blankenship, by $600,000.

And I think it’s also safe to assume that when Massey talks about fighting for “what’s right” they aren’t talking about the major environmental violations over the years culminating in a record $20 million settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA stated that Massey had violated its Clean Water Act permits “… more than 4,500 times between January 2000 and December 2006.”

Thu, 2010-01-07 15:38Brendan DeMelle
Brendan DeMelle's picture

Scientists Call for Moratorium on Mountaintop Removal Mining

A group of the nation’s leading environmental scientists is calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop issuing new mountaintop mining permits, arguing that the ecological and human health costs of the controversial mining practice are “pervasive and irreversible.” 

The group of scientists published the first comprehensive assessment of the ecological and health impacts of mountaintop removal mining today in the journal Science, describing how the impacts of current and former mountaintop removal operations will be felt for centuries, with major implications for water quality, biodiversity, and human health.  Shockingly, there’s never been a comprehensive assessment of MTR impacts until now.

Published only a few days after the Obama EPA misguidedly approved the expansion of Hobet 45, part of the largest mountaintop removal coal mine in West Virginia, the paper concludes that mountaintop removal’s impacts are much too steep to justify.  The authors’ analysis of peer-reviewed research unequivocally confirms irreversible environmental impacts from mountaintop removal, a practice that also exposes local residents to a greater risk of serious health problems.

Pages

Subscribe to don blankenship