I don’t think it’s a big coincidence that we’re seeing all of these fossil fuel accidents after 8 years of lax oversight by Bush-Cheney (see The deadly toll of the ‘safe’ and ‘clean’ coal and oil industries). The fox was guarding the henhouse. And in this case, the henhouse itself was not actually run by the hens.
An investment group with ties to labor pension funds called for the resignation of Massey Energy directors who are “ultimately responsible for Massey’s alarming safety compliance record.” Brad Johnson has the story in this Wonk Room repost.
The Change to Win Investment Group “presented today an in-depth analysis to shareholders of Massey Energy Company, making the case to vote against the three directors up for election at the mining company’s May 18 annual meeting, the first meeting of shareholders since the tragic April 5 explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, in which 29 miners lost their lives.” In a letter to investors, CtW called for the removal of directors responsible for the “preventable mine explosion” that “killed 29 miners and destroyed $1.1 billion in shareholder value“:
We urge you to vote “Withhold” on directors Richard M. Gabrys, Dan R. Moore and Baxter F. Phillips, Jr. at the Massey Energy Company annual meeting on May 18. As members of the Safety, Environmental and Public Policy Committee (SEPPC), these directors are ultimately responsible for serious and systematic non-compliance with mine safety laws over an extended period, a risk oversight failure that likely led to the catastrophic and preventable mine explosion on April 5 that killed 29 miners and destroyed $1.1 billion in shareholder value.
The investment group “believes Massey Chair and CEO Donald Blankenship’s ‘production first’ emphasis fostered a management culture that tolerated unacceptable safety and compliance failures.” By supporting Blankenship’s drive for profits over rules, the members of the Safety, Environmental and Public Policy Committee hold ultimate responsibility for the deaths of Massey’s miners.
Don Blankenship’s ‘Safety’ Overseers:
On Massey’s board since 2007, Gabrys is “the retired vice chairman of Deloitte.” He also serves on the board of the Michigan-based companies La-Z-Boy Inc., coal-dependent utility CMS Energy, and engineering firm TriMas Corporation. Gabrys has given $6000 to Republicans, including $1000 to George W. Bush, and $500 to Rep. John Dingell (D-MI).
Dan R. Moore
On Massey’s board since 2002, Moore is “the Chairman of Moore Group, Inc., which owns multiple automobile dealerships in West Virginia and Kentucky.” He previously ran West Virginia’s Matewan Bank. Moore also serves on the board of the West Virginia University Foundation, the Branch Bank and Trust Company, and the West Virginia Housing Fund. Moore has contributed $8100 to Republicans since 2000.
Baxter F. Phillips
Massey’s president since 2008 and a top executive since 2000, Phillips joined Massey in 1981. Phillips has contributed $8900 to Republicans and $5950 to the Massey PAC.
On April 19, Massey director Lady Barbara Thomas Judge resigned amid shareholder unrest.
“During times like these, a change in senior management is not appropriate or in the best interest of our members and shareholders,” said Admiral Bobby R. Inman, Massey Energy’s lead independent director on April 22. “Therefore, we want to emphasize that Don Blankenship has the full support and confidence of the Massey Energy Board of Directors.”