Don Blankenship called safety regulators “as silly as global warming”

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"Don Blankenship called safety regulators “as silly as global warming”"

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.  The reckless CEO behind the disaster — Don Blankenship — cares more about his anti-science crusade than he does about the safety of its employees, as Brad Johnson explains in this repost.

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.

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15 Responses to Don Blankenship called safety regulators “as silly as global warming”

  1. mike roddy says:

    This is an example of why I read this blog instead of newspapers for hard news as well as scientific background.

    Blankenship has long sounded as if he were taking his company on a suicide mission, and his comments at the blasted mountaintop jamboree were typical and very relevant in light of last week’s explosion. Nobody else appears to be reporting them.

    MSM reporters may or may not be in the pocket of the coal companies, but are more likely to just be too cowardly to stand up to the rich and powerful.

    Your dad must have been old school, Joe, since this does not apply to you. I only hope that this important tradition has not completely died everywhere else.

  2. Raleigh Latham says:

    We couldn’t find a more obvious villain if we tried. Blankenship is the face of evil, and it is no more apparent than right now.

  3. Wes Rolley says:

    And here is why I don’t trust Congress to do the right thing re: climate change. via Ken Ward Jr.

    “Will W.Va. delegation demand an open investigation (of mine disaster)? http://bit.ly/aIf0WT

  4. Rick Covert says:

    That’s the spirit Donny boy! We don’t need no steenkin’ badges!

  5. DavidCOG says:

    For some reason, I thought of the following quote when I saw that vid:

    > When fascism comes to this country, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.

    Usually we rail against disembodied corporations, like ExxonMobil, but it’s good to put a face on one of the vile people who want to drag us all over the precipice.

  6. Bob Wallace says:

    Looks like Blankenship’s days might be numbered.

    Stockholders are calling on the Massey board to get rid of him.

    I’d expect the Board to throw him under the bus in an attempt to take some of the heat to come off of them….

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/12/don-blankenship-investors_n_534901.html

  7. Anne says:

    If the stockholders and the Massey Board do succeed in forcing Blankenship out, this will be a weak but relevant and important market correction. Necessary, but insufficient. A legal remedy is also imperative. If it turns out that a CEO can knowingly and brazenly put his employees in harm’s way, at risk of morbidity and mortality on a daily basis, and get away with it, then something is seriously, gravely wrong with our society. All of the executives and officers at Massey need to be examined and held accountable; if in the Blankenship reinvents himself in some other capacity in coal mining and is allowed to continue in his haughty lifestyle, justice will not be served.

  8. Dan B says:

    The prevailing messaging on global warming from the fossil fuel industry, and many related quarters, seems to be more and more consistent. The tone is mysoginistic, flag-waving patriotic (or hard-core unregulated market capitalism), and more brazen in it’s support of American exceptionalism.

    It sounds like the last writhing cries of the fossil fuel beast. But it could as easily be the first volley of a concerted effort to oppose our progress into a clean, green, energy future.

    Blankenship’s statement is a challenge to regulators and lawmakers. You’re silly sissies who wouldn’t dare regulate us, fine us, or force change. It’s the bully telling the victims that he’s still in charge and there will be pain.

    If governmental regulatory agencies do not respond with force then Blankenship wins, and the general public likes to be with the winners.

    If the Sierra Club rushes into West Virginia with banner waving middle-class urban kids it would reinforce the Tea-Party. If Obama calls publicly for stronger regulation of mining the predominately rural poor white will seeth with resentment and quiet racism.

    And yet the lives of the rural poor are demeaned every day by corporate profiteers like Massey.

    We live in interesting times.

  9. riverat says:

    Given the recent SCOTUS decision in Citizens United Blankenship has plenty of money to throw at the political process. I guess we’ll find out how much it buys him.

  10. Chris Dudley says:

    His logic is flawed. He claims to have mined more coal than others so he knows more than the regulators. But the regulators can take lessons from all mining which is more than any one operator can do. They can also investigate accidents in a professional manner, something that operators can not do owing to conflict of interest. So, the regulators will always know more about mine safety than any one operator so long as they bother to do their training.

    As a demagogue though he is pretty classic in setting up an us vrs. them feeling.

  11. wag says:

    Do you think Massey has somebody like Ed Norton’s job in fight club working for them? Here’s how you can calculate the economic value of a coal miner’s life to Massey:

    http://akwag.blogspot.com/2010/04/fight-club-and-coal-company-death.html

    Interesting point: the Bush administration EPA lowered its estimation of the “value of a statistical life” by $900,000 between 2003 and 2008. Is it possible that Massey’s lobbying and connections in the government had something to do with it?

  12. Chris Winter says:

    Anne wrote: “If it turns out that a CEO can knowingly and brazenly put his employees in harm’s way, at risk of morbidity and mortality on a daily basis, and get away with it, then something is seriously, gravely wrong with our society.”

    One guest on today’s Thom Hartmann show was Ellen Smith, managing editor of Mine Safety & Health News. According to her, CEOs like Blankenship are very hard to prosecute for safety violations. On the other hand, Blankenship’s record may be blatant enough to nullify that difficulty. Smith, IIRC, says 24 of his bituminous mines have worse than average rates of violation.

    Unfortunately, I can’t check this online. The latest newsletter on the site (minesafety.com) dates from November 2007.

  13. Chris Winter says:

    Akwag wrote: “Interesting point: the Bush administration EPA lowered its estimation of the “value of a statistical life” by $900,000 between 2003 and 2008. Is it possible that Massey’s lobbying and connections in the government had something to do with it?”

    It’s possible, but I don’t think Massey was involved. As Carl Pope describes it in Strategic Ignorance, this “misunderestimation” of the value of human life came from the Office of Information and Regulatory Assessment (OIRA). Created during the Reagan administration, it had the original function of ensuring that every federal regulation was analyzed to see if its benefits were justified by its costs. John Graham (profiled by Pope on pages 51-52) was chosen as its first administrator. He had the power to send any regulation back to the agency that produced it for reconsideration. Pope discusses on pages 63-66 and 68-72 how he used that power. In sum, I think Graham’s motivation was ideology rather than greed.

  14. Bob Wallace says:

    “Blankenship’s statement is a challenge to regulators and lawmakers. You’re silly sissies who wouldn’t dare regulate us, fine us, or force change.”

    But coal mines were being inspected, written up, and fined. And, according to them, the fines had become significant. In the past they had simply paid the fines as a cost of doing business. But once fine amounts rose they picked a different strategy.

    They chose to block up the system by appealing all(?) fines. Why this made sense to them, I don’t know. Did they expect another Republican president and a decrease in regulation and give them amnesty for previous sins?

    When Obama came to office he added another four judges to the ten currently working in an attempt to get through the backlog. (Hindsight suggests that four weren’t enough, but hindsight usually makes better decisions….)

  15. Bryson Brown says:

    This reminds me vividly of a character in Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth, a coal-dealer who’s frank, self-serving private prayers (e.g. for a collapse in rival soft-coal prices that will bankrupt a competitor) are always granted, because such prayers rank so high on the sincerity scale, and any donation from the ‘meanest, greediest white man who ever lived’ is such a sacrifice: “Another nickel from Abner” the heavenly host proclaim, every Sunday, as his donation is received. Somewhere in there is a distinction between professing and professional Christians…