The death toll from Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine explosion last week has reached a total of 29 miners, the worst coal disaster in 40 years. When the disaster occurred, Massey was contesting millions of dollars in major safety violations levied against the mine. At his Labor Day anti-union rally last year, Massey CEO Don Blankenship attacked the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), claiming it “seeks power over coal miners.” He mocked both “Washington politicians” and local elected officials who attempt to ensure miner safety, calling their efforts “as silly as global warming”:
We also endure a Mine Safety and Health Administration that seeks power over coal miners versus improving their safety and their health. As someone who has overseen the mining of more coal than anyone else in the history of central Appalachia, I know that the safety and health of coal miners is my most important job. I don’t need Washington politicians to tell me that, and neither do you. But I also know — I also know Washington and state politicians have no idea how to improve miner safety. The very idea that they care more about coal miner safety than we do is as silly as global warming.
Don Blankenship — who uses his position on the boards of the National Mining Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to promote his conspiracy theories about global warming — said he spent one million dollars to put together the “Friends of America” right-wing rally and rock concert in Holden, WV on September 7, 2009, which starred Ted Nugent, Hank Williams, Jr., and Fox News host Sean Hannity. In 2009, Blankenship also complained that “politicians get emotional” about disasters and establish “nonsensical” safety rules.
At Work in Progress, Michael Whitney notes:
This morning’s news from the S&P stock exchange should be music to Don Blankenship’s ears. Massey’s stock has been upgraded to a “buy” because the accident should be “immaterial” to Massey’s finances.
,Before the disaster, Blankenship attacked MSHA and “emotional” elected officials trying to improve mine safety with “nonsensical” laws. After the disaster, Blankenship claimed these “experts” had certified the mine as safe, when in fact Massey Energy was contesting hundreds of violations worth over $1 million, preventing MSHA from taking action: