coal

Massey Continues Campaign to Dodge Responsibility for Upper Big Branch Disaster

  • Posted on: 22 November 2010
  • By: JesseColeman

Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy


Massey Energy recently released a new report claiming the company’s safety practices were not to blame for the Upper Big Branch mining disaster that killed 29 people. Massey Energy’s chief executive Don Blankenship maintains the explosion was caused by natural occurrences and not from unsafe coal mining and ventilation procedures.  He says the report "illustrates that it's something unusual, that it's more likely than not that it came out of the floor… and not out of the natural mining process,” refuting the widely held theory that the deadly explosion was due to the willful disabling of methane detectors.  

The report, authored by Massey “experts,” is the company’s latest contrivance in their campaign to discredit and obstruct government investigations into the disaster.  Other elements of their strategy have included physically keeping investigators from inspecting machinery at the mine, preventing top safety officials from testifying, and publicly accusing the state and federal governments of lying.  Because of Massey’s repeated attempts to sabotage the investigation, MSHA officials have threatened to seize the mine, an extreme action that illustrates the level of hostility felt by investigators.

Avoiding or reducing their liability is of utmost importance to Massey Energy executives, who have announced they were considering all offers for a buy out.  The company has not hit its production targets since 2004, has suffered multiple deadly disasters related to poor safety practices, and posted a net loss of $41.4 million last quarter. Given the fact that any company that buys Massey would be liable for the damages wrought at UBB, company executives have little chance of pawning their problems off on a buyer if the MSHA finds Massey at fault for the UBB explosion.  This means that Massey execs are frantically trying to limit their responsibility for UBB, or at least prolong the investigation long enough to sell the company before the roof falls in on their heads.   

 

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Massey Officials Plea the Fifth in Upper Big Branch Disaster Investigation

  • Posted on: 12 November 2010
  • By: JesseColeman

Officials responsible for safety at the Upper Big Branch coal mine during the April 3rd, 2010 disaster have decided to live by the old maxim “better to keep your mouth shut and appear guilty than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

“Approximately 15 Massey upper-management employees have pled their Fifth Amendment right not to provide potentially self-incriminating evidence during the interview process,” according to the US Mine Safety and Health Administration, the government agency responsible for investigating the Upper Big Branch mine disaster that killed 29 miners.

At least six of those who have refused to cooperate with MHSA were high-level safety personnel at Upper Big Branch during the explosion.  Lawyers for the Massey officials issued letters to the state announcing their clients’ refusal to testify in the investigation for fear of incriminating themselves, while maintaining that they “did nothing wrong.”  The refusal of those responsible for safety at UBB to testify is not a surprise, given the numerous allegations that Massey management took major risks with human life rather than threaten profits.

The refusal of top Massey safety officials to cooperate in the investigation is part of a wider campaign orchestrated by the coal company to discredit the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration in hopes of influencing public opinion. Though nominally independent, the Massey officials’ lawyers are paid by Massey, and have parroted Massey’s corporate lawyers’ accusations of wrongdoing by government agencies.  Massey Energy’s legal team claims that the investigations were being used more as a means of “generating public bias against Massey Energy and its personnel than they are in respecting the rule of law and fair process.” Following in lockstep, “independent” lawyers representing the Massey officials claim the investigations are “not being conducted properly” by MSHA, who is using its investigation to "divert attention and blame from itself and onto others."  

Massey’s strategy has also included an attack on the independent investigation team appointed by Gov. Joe Manchin, which Massey-affiliated lawyers allege have "bullied and abused" some witnesses.

For the record, these are the names and positions of Massey officials refusing to work with the MSHA investigation that have been released:

    * Jamie Ferguson, vice president of Massey subsidiary Performance Coal;
    * Wayne Persinger, a general manager at Upper Big Branch;
    * Rick Nicolau, a maintenance chief at the mine;
    * Mine foremen Rick Foster and Gary May.
 

From the West Virginia Gazette

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Huffington Post: Koch Brothers Fighting Climate Legislation at State Level

  • Posted on: 29 September 2010
  • By: JesseColeman

The Kochtopus wants to destroy your clean energy future

 

Yet another tentacle of the "Kochtopus", the shadowy assemblage of front groups that helped kill this year's cap and trade bill, is attempting to strangle regional clean energy initiatives on the East and West Coasts.  The Kochtopus is a network of astroturf groups funded by the Koch brothers, who have made billions of dollars from Koch Industries, an enormous dirty energy corporation.

Not content with retarding progress on climate change at the federal level, industry-funded astroturf groups have taken aim at a regional cap-and-trade system in New York and the nation's most ambitious state clean energy program in California.

This time it is the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity that is protecting the billionaire brothers' ability to pollute.  Assisted by a conglomeration of 58 front groups called the State Policy Network, AFP and its allies have been clouding out the facts on climate change with lies and confusion.

Despite the amusing name, the Kochtopus is a very sophisticated and calculated propaganda apparatus that has seriously manipulated public opinion to the detriment of the American people and the planet.  The front groups that comprise it have proven very effective to their corporate puppeteers, who will continue to fund and exploit them to prevent much needed regulation of the dirty energy industry.  These groups must be recognized as pawns and charlatans before they further delay action against catastrophic global warming.

For more on this story, see the Huffington Post article by Robert Eshelman

 

 

  

 

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Report Describes How Energy Companies Bought EPA Officials

  • Posted on: 24 September 2010
  • By: JesseColeman

John Pemberton, a former EPA official now in the employ of Southern Company.

Gulf Oil Slick makes Climate Negotiations Slippery says Utility Exec. (Webside 126)

A report by Public Citizen entitled EPA’s Smoke Screen details how Congress was given false information while campaign contributions and political connections gutted a key Clean Air rule.  The Report mentions John Pemberton, a former EPA Chief of Staff who went to work for Southern Company just one week after his office ruled in favor of relaxing pollution controls on the energy company.  The ruling effectively repealed the Clean Air Act's "new source review," which requires companies to install modern pollution control technologies in new plants and in old plants when they make modifications that significantly increase pollution.

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Southern Company Buys a Loophole in the Clean Air Act

  • Posted on: 23 September 2010
  • By: JesseColeman

John Pemberton, currently an influence peddler for Southern Company, was once a key player in utility regulation at the EPA. From 2001-2003 he served as chief of staff for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation where he helped manage the office’s efforts on several utility-related policy issues.  A week after effectively repealing the Clean Air Act's "new source review" provision, which requires companies to install modern pollution control technologies in new plants and in old plants when they make modifications that significantly increase pollution, he resigned. He then joined Southern Company as a lobbyist, proving that there was a high level of collusion between Southern Company - one of the top five carbon emitters in the world - and influential members of EPA.

This kind of blatant revolving door politics can only be described as corruption.

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