Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Your money props up coal business slimeballs

Posted By on Tue, Apr 6, 2010 at 4:23 PM

Massey Energy owns the subsidiary company that runs the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia. That’s where an underground methane explosion yesterday created the worst U.S. mining disaster since 1984, killing 25 miners. If the name Massey Energy sounds familiar, you may have read or heard something about the company’s horrendous mountaintop removal mining practices, in which entire mountaintops are blown up for the underground coal, after which the dirt, trees and leftover junk are bulldozed into the adjoining valleys, more often than not polluting the local water. Or maybe you read about Massey’s CEO, Don L. Blankenship, a living cartoon replica of the old “evil, crooked coal exec” caricatures of earlier days. Or perhaps you heard that Duke Energy bus mucho coal from Massey, thus supporting the company’s environmental destruction. Now there’s another reason for Duke to end its relationship with Blankenship’s boys: Massey’s callous disregard for its own employees’ safety – or even the families of those employees killed by Massey’s incompetence.

It seems that the Upper Big Branch mine has a long history of safety violations, including – get this – 57 infractions last month, with one of the major, repeated complaints being the improper ventilation of methane. Massey is known for fighting safety violations tooth and nail, as well as dragging its feet on making needed improvements. Incredibly, it also turns out that no one from Massey bothered to communicate with the killed and trapped miners’ families yesterday to tell them what had happened; the miners’ relatives first heard about the disaster via the media. Massey apologized for the “oversight” today.

As a Duke Energy customer, I want the company to cut its ties to Massey. It’s bad enough that Duke Energy customers' money is supporting Massey’s morally obscene mountaintop removal practices; now Massey’s abysmal safety record, and its cold disregard for the people who make those billions for the company, takes the cake. If you’re a Duke Energy customer and you don’t want your money to be used to prop up the corporate obscenity known as Massey Energy, let the people at Duke Energy know.

And, by the way, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis says, "The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration will investigate this tragedy, and take action. Miners should never have to sacrifice their lives for their livelihood." Sounds great, Ms. Solis, but, frankly, considering the coal lobby's past influence on administrations both Democratic and Republican, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Shameless Crooks: Don Blankenship, Massey's CEO, right, and W. Virginia Supreme Court Justice Elliott Maynard, left, during a Massey-financed trip to Monaco in 2006
  • Shameless Crooks: Don Blankenship, Massey's CEO, right, and W. Virginia Supreme Court Justice Elliott Maynard, left, during a Massey-financed trip to Monaco in 2006

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