Ode to a coal mining teabagger

Sometimes, when the Libertarians here on the site go off on a tirade about the evils of government regulation, and how the world would be a much better place if only we’d only trust in the power of unfettered Capitalism, I like to remind folks that there was a time not too long ago in our country’s history when children were being worked to death in coal mines. They can argue all they want that the free market, left to its own devices, can do no wrong. History, however, says different.

And, sadly, we don’t even have to go too far back to make our case. Just a few days ago, 25 coal miners died at the Upper Big Branch South Mine in Whitesville, West Virginia. The facts are still coming in, but, what’s known is that the mine, owned and operated by the Massey Energy Company, was in serious violation of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act. Here’s a clip from the Associated Press:

…The mine, about 30 miles south of Charleston, has a significant history of safety violations, including 57 infractions just last month for (among other things) not properly ventilating the highly combustible methane…

And, the Baltimore Sun goes even further:

…To say Massey has a “spotty” record on safety, to quote the Associated Press, is to put it mildly. Just in the last year the company has been fined more than $300,000 for violations at Upper Big Branch of protocols designed to prevent this kind of disaster. Violations include “failing to follow the plan, allowing combustible coal dust to pile up and having improper firefighting equipment,” AP says. In late 2008 Massey admitted to criminal safety violations in an accident that killed two at its Aracoma mine. Failures in that incident included not conducting safety drills and faking a record book to make it look like the drills occurred…

But, maybe that kind of fuck-the-rules behavior is to be expected from the rugged individualists involved in strip mining and mountain top removal. Maybe we’re naive. We flip the switch in the morning and take it for granted that the light is going to come on. Maybe we need some good old boys like Don Blankenship, the CEO of Massey Energy, who are willing to play hardball, and cut corners to get us good, cheap energy. And Massey, if you’ve never had the pleasure of meeting him, really does come across like the kind of confident American captain of industry that would have given Ayn Rand wet dreams. Here, if you don’t believe me, is video proof. [Jump one minute in to get to the video of Blankenship roughing up an ABC cameraman and threatening him with being shot.]

If you don’t want to watch the whole Nightline report, here’s the gist of it… Blankenship, after being ordered by West Virginia courts to pay a large damage award to a company that he had illegally driven into bankruptcy, spent $3 million to get a fellow by the name of Brent Benjamin elected to the State Supreme Court in time to hear his appeal and overturn the ruling… Here’s a clip from the New York Times:

…The case involves a brazen — and so far successful — attempt by the chief executive of a large coal company to overturn a major damage award against his firm. A West Virginia jury decided that the coal company, Massey Energy, had fraudulently driven a small competitor, the Harman Mining Corporation, into bankruptcy proceedings. Massey’s chief executive, Don Blankenship, decided to appeal. But before that, he spent an extraordinary $3 million to help elect a member of West Virginia’s State Supreme Court, Brent Benjamin.

When Massey’s case came before the West Virginia court, Mr. Benjamin declined to do the right thing and recuse himself. “No objective information is advanced to show that this justice has a bias for or against any litigant,” he wrote. Mr. Benjamin subsequently cast the deciding vote to toss out the award against Massey…

Oh, and here’s the cherry on top. He’s apparently a teabagger… Here he is, inviting folks out to a Tea Party event called the Friends of America Rally.

According to the folks at Crooks and Liars, Massey, who also serves on the ultra-conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce board of directors, spent over $1 million dollars to fund the Labor Day Tea Party, featuring Sean Hannity, Ted Nugent, and Hank Williams, Jr.

So, let’s hear it from those “the free market can solve anything” Tea Partiers out there.

I’d love to hear them defend this man who’s done such a fantastic job of manipulating them. He gets them to come out and wave their “Obama is a Socialist” signs like little puppets, telling them that the American government has it in for them, all the while fighting safety legislation in his own mines, and buying up the courts to protect his interests. This, I think, gets to the very heart of the Tea Party delusion. They try to portray it as a grass roots movement of hard working, disenfranchised white men, when all it really is is criminal manipulation of the terrified and uneducated for wealth and power.

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  1. EOS
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    Except this disaster occurred at a time when the coal industry is operating under the largest amount of Federal regulation in the history of our nation. It isn’t a free market at all. Numerous citations for violations and massive fines did nothing to correct this abominable record. The solution isn’t more government regulation – as you can see it hasn’t worked at all. The solution can only be found in Christ.

    James Madison
    “We have staked the whole future of American civilization not on the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future …upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God. ”

    John Adams
    “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

  2. Edward
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    WTF? The solution can only be found in Christ? Are you fucking serious? And what would your solution be, EOS, imposed Christianity? Would you force this man to become a Christian? Just when I think you couldn’t get any more delusional, you take yet another leap through the fog of stupidity.

  3. Fuzzy Math
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    “The solution can only be found in actually enforcing current regulations and imposing stricter penalties for violations.”

    Fixed that for you.

  4. Kim
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I agree with EOS. If we just gave out teabaggers swords and empowered them to dole out Christian justice, our country would be much better. It would be a paradise, like Afghanistan under the Taliban. When people do did bad things, like left the house without a male escort, we could just chop their heads off and be done with it.

  5. Robert
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    And how many coal mining deaths occured in years where there was less regulation, EOS? Would you like to report that tidbit of information?

    That asside, I’m with EOS on this. Those dead miners better had found Jesus before that explosion. That’s the only issue here.

    And I am willing to bet Don Blankenship is a Christian – certainly every bit the Christian EOS or I am.

    As for you Mark, we, the highly intelligent and critically thinking readers of your blog, aren’t buying your wild accusations of bought elections and other conspiracy theories regarding this good Christian American. That stuff doesn’t happen. I can’t think of why at the moment, but I am sure it doesn’t happen.

  6. Robert
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    If only the coal mining industry could find Christ like the air travel industry has.

  7. Robert
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Can you imagine all the time and energy EOS could have saved the NTSB?

  8. Meta
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    From today’s Progress report:

    On Monday, 25 miners died and another four went missing after an explosion took place at 3 p.m. at Massey Energy-owned Performance Coal Co.’s Upper Big Branch Mine-South between the towns of Montcoal and Naoma in West Virginia. The deadly accident resulted in “the most people killed in a U.S. mine since 1984, when 27 died in a fire at Emery Mining Corp.’s mine in Orangeville, Utah.” Rescue teams attempted to retrieve the four missing miners on Tuesday, but were forced to turn back “because unsafe levels of methane and carbon monoxide posed a risk of a second explosion.” Early today, four rescue teams entered the Upper Big Branch Mine-South, “working their way to a chamber where it is hoped four unaccounted-for miners may be found.” Though there is a “sliver of hope” that the miners could be rescued, “officials and townsfolk alike admitted” to the Associated Press that “they didn’t expect to find any of the four still-missing miners alive.” “We’ve been working against long odds from day one,” said West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D). Since the accident on Monday, Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship — whose mines have a long history of safety violations — “has appeared several times before the cameras,” but “has said very little, his face seeming almost expressionless as he quietly answers questions about his concern for miner safety.” According to the New York Times, when Blankenship attempted to “announce the death toll to families who were gathered at the site” around 2 a.m. Tuesday, “people yelled at him for caring more about profits than miners’ lives.”

    OVER 3,000 VIOLATIONS: According to Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) records, since 1995, Massey’s Upper Big Branch-South Mine has been cited for 3,007 safety violations. Massey is contesting 353 violations, and 127 are delinquent. “Violations in 2009 were roughly double the amount from any previous year” and a violation involving mine foreman Terry Moore “was one of at least 50 ‘unwarrantable failure’ violations assessed there in the past year, the most serious type of violation that MSHA can assess.” In March 2010, 53 new safety citations were issued for Massey’s mine, including violations of its mine ventilation plan. Federal regulators issued two citations against the Upper Big Branch Mine-South on Jan. 7 “because the intake system that was supposed to pull clean air inside was moving air in the wrong direction. Similar problems were also noted by the mine safety agency after a 2006 fire at a Massey mine in Logan County, W.Va., killed two miners. ” The New York Times reports today that “federal officials said two safety citations were made against the mine’s operator on the day of the explosion.” “One of the citations issued Monday against the operator, the Massey Energy Company, was for failing to properly insulate and seal spliced electrical cables” while the other “was for failing to keep maps of above-ground escape routes current.” Blankenship is dismissive of the safety violations. “Violations are unfortunately a normal part of the mining process,” he said in an interview with the Metronews radio network in West Virginia. “There are violations at every coal mine in America, and U.B.B. was a mine that had violations,” he added, referring to Upper Big Branch Mine-South. In a 2003 Forbes profile, Blankenship said, “We don’t pay much attention to the violation count.” In addition to violations at the Upper Big Branch Mine, the Washington Independent’s Mike Lillis notes that “the dozens of other active tunnel mines owned by” Massey “have run up thousands of safety violations this year alone.”

    A HISTORY OF DISASTER: Monday’s tragic explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine-South was not the first environmental or safety disaster to occur at a Massey Energy-owned property. Massey is the parent of Martin County Coal, which was responsible for the “nation’s largest man-made environmental disaster east of the Mississippi” until the 2008 Tennessee coal-ash spill. “In October 2000, a coal slurry impoundment broke through an underground mine shaft and spilled over 300 million gallons of black, toxic sludge into the headwaters of Coldwater Creek and Wolf Creek,” in Martin County, Kentucky. In 2008, Massey’s Aracoma Coal Co. agreed to “plead guilty to 10 criminal charges, including one felony, and pay $2.5 million in criminal fines” after two workers died in a 2006 fire at the Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine in Melville, West Virginia. Massey also paid $1.7 million in civil fines. The mine “had 25 violations of mandatory health and safety laws” before the fire on January 19, 2006, but Blankenship passed off the events that caused the deaths as “statistically insignificant.” Days before fire broke out in the Aracoma mine, a federal mine inspector tried to close down that section of the mine, but “was told by his superior to back off and let them run coal, that there was too much demand for coal.” Massey failed to notify authorities of the fire until two hours after the disaster. Three months before the Aracoma mine fire, Blankenship sent managers a memo saying, “If any of you have been asked by your group presidents, your supervisors, engineers or anyone else to do anything other than run coal…you need to ignore them and run coal. This memo is necessary only because we seem not to understand that the coal pays the bills.” A week later, however, Blankenship sent a follow-up memo, saying that safety is the first responsibility.

    PAID-FOR POLITICAL PROTECTION: Blankenship is not just a coal baron, he’s also a right-wing activist millionaire who sits on the boards of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Mining Association. He’s “a highly active GOP fundraiser and bankroller who is known for his outspoken opposition to labor unions.” The Center for Responsive Politics has calculated “that individuals and PACs connected to Massey Energy have contributed more than $300,000 to federal candidates in the past two decades, 91 percent of which went to Republicans.” “Blankenship contributed the federal maximum of $30,400 last year to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and he has supported Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and GOP Senate candidates Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio,” the Washington Post reports. After the Marin County Coal spill, then-U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, who oversaw the MSHA, “put on the brakes” on an agency investigation into the spill by placing a staffer to her husband, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in charge. In 2002, a Labor Department judge levied a $5,600 fine. “In September 2002, Massey’s PAC gave $100,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee,” which McConnell had previously chaired. Overall, McConnell has been one of the top recipients of Massey-related contributions, collecting $13,550 from Massey-connected contributors. Blankenship’s closeness to prominent Republicans helped him land allies at the highest levels of the federal mine safety system during the Bush administration. Massey COO Stanley Suboleski was named a commissioner of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission in 2003 and was nominated in December 2007 to run the Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy. Suboleski is now back on the Massey board. After being rejected twice by the Senate, President Bush put one-time Massey executive Dick Stickler in charge of the MSHA by a recess appointment in October 2006. In the 1990s, Stickler oversaw Massey subsidiary Performance Coal, the operator of the deadly Upper Big Branch Mine, after managing Beth Energy mines, which “incurred injury rates double the national average.” Bush named Stickler acting secretary when the recess appointment expired in January 2008.

    You can read it with links here:

  9. Posted April 8, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    EOS: “Numerous citations for violations and massive fines did nothing to correct this abominable record. The solution isn’t more government regulation – as you can see it hasn’t worked at all.”

    So if I ignore speeding tickets and reckless driving tickets (or even if I pay them), and then I run someone over, it’s really the government’s fault for regulating driving speed?

  10. Peter Larson
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Does the Bible say anything about what to do about employers who run unsafe workplaces?

    Cut their noses off?

    I just looked at the Ten Commandments. I can find nothing about coal mining, nor about workplace safety. Help me out, EOS.

  11. EOS
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t say it was the governments fault, just that government regulation certainly didn’t solve the problems. It’s similar to environmental laws and regulation – the more costly the environmental regulation, the more likely corporations will not comply, and the more damage done to the environment.

    Love your neighbor as yourself. Treat others as you would like to be treated.

  12. Peter Larson
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    That’s not a Commandment.

  13. EOS
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    It is the second greatest commandment according to Jesus’ own words.
    Mark 12:28 – 31

  14. kjc
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    “Love your neighbor as yourself. Treat others as you would like to be treated.”

    if you feel like it, that is. if you freely choose to do so without coercion. but not cuz you’ve got to. so if you WANT to ventilate the mines, then do so. but if you don’t so much, then don’t. remember: the only good choice is the one you feel like making.

  15. Peter Larson
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I would not mind working in unsafe conditions so I do not have to provide them for my workers.

    That makes a lot of sense.

  16. fleurs
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    EOS, wouldn’t christian doctrine say that we are all flawed, and incapable of acting perfectly? we need guidelines and consequences to keep things working, and keep each other safe, when selfishness and laziness rear their heads.

    and i don’t understand the christian anti-government stance lately, after over and over and over being called to respect the god-ordained president of 00-08. what has changed? why aren’t biblical excerpts such as proverbs 24:21-22 showing up anymore:

    21-22 Fear God, dear child—respect your leaders;
    don’t be defiant or mutinous.
    Without warning your life can turn upside down,
    and who knows how or when it might happen?

  17. Chris Peters
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    It terrifies that that there are other boobs like yourself out there, EOS.

    You say that the Christian teaching of “love thy neighbor” should be sufficient, but when asked about how such a rule would be enforced, you offer nothing.

    And, it’s curious that you use “love thy neighbor” in this thread, where you’re making the case as to why a mine owner shouldn’t be regulated, but you don’t invoke that same phrase in our conversations on health care. Shouldn’t we, if we really do love our neighbors, make sure that they’re in good health?

  18. Robert
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Numerous citations for speeding violations and massive fines has done nothing to correct some people’s abominable driving records.

    We need to get rid of speed limits.

  19. EOS
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Chris –
    “You say that the Christian teaching of “love thy neighbor” should be sufficient” No, I didn’t. It was the answer to Peter’s previous question.

    “where you’re making the case as to why a mine owner shouldn’t be regulated” No, I didn’t. I merely pointed out the fact that the hazardous conditions that led to so many deaths occurred in spite of a large amount of government regulations.

    If you really love your neighbors, than you willingly contribute on your own volition. The early church (Acts 2) provided for the care of widows and orphans. They did not petition the Romans to collect a tax from others to do so. I tithe from my gross income and I tithe my time. I’m not under any compulsion to do so, but I do, and I get personal satisfaction from it. I will continue to do so whether or not anyone else does. I have no need to force others to do the same. Having said that, I personally believe that our society would be much improved if everyone willingly helped others. Individuals helping each other will always be far more effective and efficient than what can be accomplished through governmental agencies.

  20. Edward
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    I’ll do you one better, Robert. Let’s not just get rid of speed limits, let’s get rid of those socialist roads.

    Here’s something I bet you didn’t know… THEY HAVE ROADS IN RUSSIA!!!

  21. Brackinald Achery
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Here you go, EOS.

  22. Brackinald Achery
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Whoops. I mean here you go.

  23. kjc
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    “patriotically minded, common sense people”

    sounds frightening.

  24. EOS
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    BA – you’re right! She must be one of the demoralized.

  25. Posted April 8, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    EOS gets a gold star for trolling. Top Score!

  26. Posted April 8, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    I’ve grown up and lived on the river(Route 3) surrounded by coal mine’s. My whole family and all my friends are associated with coal. This is our world, mountains of coal, respecting it and fearing it all the same. I send my condolences to all the families that have been affected.

  27. Lacy
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m frustrated by EOS’s selective, partisan commenting, but I think some of his(?) points are worth considering.

    The mine was regulated and cited for violations. It’s violations went through the court system. All branches of government where aware of the violations. Most importantly, a free press exposed the actions of Massey Coal to a national audience. This all happened within the system, in light of day.

    I completely agree with Mark’s assertion that the Tea Party is being duped. But before we forever wrinkle our noses with lines of scorn, lets remember that we now have a President who has opened off shore drilling, sold out public health care, and is willing to kill a citizen without due process. Duped is as duped does.

    I’m sorry folks, I just can’t shake the feeling that all this quibbling between manufactured sides isn’t an enormous distraction. It’s like a bad counseling session where we’re told to yell our feelings at hand puppets. I just don’t see any of you people as the real threat to our democracy.

  28. Brackinald Achery
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Lacy is damn reasonable.

  29. EOS
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    I was thinking the same thing. Thanks for your input Lacy.

  30. Stephen
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Lacy, for your thoughtful response. The real enemy before us is corporate America. We must not forget that.

  31. Edward
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Speaking of puppetry, check out this appearance by Jesse Ventura on Palin and Bachmann.


  32. Mike Shecket
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    “…was in serious violation of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act.”

    Which, in itself, was in violation of the TRANRA Recursive And Near-Recursive Acronyms (TRANRA) Act.

  33. Posted April 9, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    You all have much more patience and time than I do. Probably both.

  34. Michael
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how often this guy goes down into his own mines.

  35. Posted April 13, 2010 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    While some groups are calling for the arrest of Blankenship, it looks like Rush Limbaugh is blaming the union for what happened in West Virginia. Only problem is, it’s not a union mine.

  36. bleeding hemorrhoids
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    It’s amazing to me that men like this are out, walking around free, when other men are in jail for relatively minor offenses.

  37. Peter Larson
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Well, the stupid workers chose to work under dangerous conditions so he is innocent of all charges, at least according to the fleabaggers.

  38. Meta
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    From today’s Progress Report:

    On April 5, an explosion of methane gas ripped through the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, eventually killing 29 of the 31 miners at the site. The tragedy was the worst mining disaster in decades and shed light on the unsafe working conditions in mines run by Massey Energy and other industry leaders. Yet more than four months later, federal officials say they still don’t know the cause of the explosion, although they reject a theory “put forward by Massey, that a huge crack in the floor of the mine may have allowed an influx of the explosive gas methane.” Regulators from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the state of West Virginia have so far interviewed 166 people in their investigation and are now going to subpoena Massey executives, including CEO Don Blankenship. Despite this devastating incident, Blankenship and other coal barons continue to put profits over public safety, polluting the political environment by throwing large sums of money at candidates who will help them weaken regulations.

    PROFITS OVER PEOPLE: MSHA has cited Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine for more than 3,000 violations, with 638 since 2009. The fines assessed against the mine amount to $2.2 million; at the time of the April explosion, Massey had paid just $791,327. This week, MSHA issued new sanctions on the Upper Big Branch mine, saying “officials there failed to report five cave-ins and 20 lost-time work accidents in the months before a fatal blast killed 29 men.” Since April, Blankenship has been receiving some long-overdue scrutiny for his record of putting coal profits over fundamental safety and health concerns. Blankenship, a right-wing activist millionaire who sits on the boards of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Mining Association, used his company’s ties to the industry-dominated Bush administration to paper over Massey’s egregious environmental and health violations. At a Labor Day rally last year, Blankenship called safety regulators “as silly as global warming.” Even after the Upper Big Branch disaster, Massey officials prevented miners from attending funerals of the 29 victims and even “required a worker to go on shift even though the fate of a relative — one of the victims of the April 5 disaster — remained unknown at the time.” Last month, five former employees sued a Massey subsidiary saying that it “forced them to work off the clock to avoid paying overtime.” Yesterday, the Labor Department “filed for full reinstatement” of a miner who was fired by Massey after blowing the whistle on the unsafe practices at Massey mines. The miner is a witness in the federal criminal investigation into the Upper Big Branch explosion.

    HURTING THE BOTTOM LINE: Massey is also starting to take a hit financially. The Upper Big Branch Mine is unlikely to reopen this year, and the explosion contributed “to a second-quarter loss of $88.7 million, or 88 cents per share, in the period.” Yesterday, the Rainforest Action Network announced that major Wall Street banks are backing away from companies that practice destructive mountain top removal mining. The organization reports, “Bank of America, which was one of the ‘syndication agents’ on a $175 million revolver loan to Massey in March 2008, is no longer on the deal or any others with the company. JPMorgan, similarly, underwrote $180 million in debt securities in 2008 to Massey and was also the lead manager on a $233 million share deal (joint with UBS) that same year. JPMorgan no longer has any financial ties to the company.” Reducing the power of the coal industry is actually good news for West Virginia, the heart of the industry, despite what many politicians state. Despite $118 million in coal-mining annual income, West Virginia has the nation’s lowest median household income, worst educational services, worst social assistance, and highest percentage of its population with disabilities. Nearly a quarter of West Virginia children are in poverty. A West Virginia University study found that the “human cost of the Appalachian coal mining economy outweighs its economic benefits.” Although the coal industry generates more than “$8 billion a year in economic benefits for the Appalachian region,” the value of the premature deaths due to the mining industry are valued at a minimum of $42 billion.

    POLITICAL INFLUENCE: Rep. George Miller (D-CA), along with co-sponsors Reps. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) and Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), has introduced legislation to improve mine safety by hiking financial penalties for mine-safety violations. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that it would generate “$200 million in increased revenues during the next decade.” Naturally, Blankenship is against the bill. “We need to let businesses function as businesses,” he said last week at the National Press Club. “Corporate business is what built America, in my opinion, and we need to let it thrive by, in a sense, leaving it alone.” Blankenship and other coal barons are now doing all they can to make sure that there won’t be more regulations, including by donating large sums of money to industry-friendly candidates who will look the other way at their misbehavior. Blankenship and other Massey employees have donated thousands of dollars to West Virginia congressional candidates Elliott “Spike” Maynard and David McKinley. Maynard and Blankenship are especially tight. In 2006, when Maynard was chief justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and Massey had millions of dollars of cases pending before the court, Maynard and Blankenship went on an expensive vacation in the French Riviera together. Later that year, Maynard voted with the majority in favor of Massey. McKinley has hired Blankenship’s old “chief political consultant” to help his campaign. The Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky also reports that several coal executives, including Blankenship, are pooling their money to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision loosening corporate campaign finance laws by forming a 527 group to help elect coal-friendly Republicans. Why a 527? Because according to the IRS, they can hide their activities until “next year, long after the Nov. 2 election.” Coal executives are even planning to influence the minds of West Virginia’s future leaders at a younger age, by teaching schoolchildren about the wonders of coal.

  39. Meta
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Rand Paul says “accidents happen”, and calls for fewer regulations in coal mining.


  40. Edward
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Fuck Rand Paul, who also said recently that drilling needed to be regulated less. I can’t believe he’d have the nerve to say that right after 11 men were killed in the Gulf. Much more insensitive in my book than building a mosque a few blocks from the site of the September 11 attacks.

  41. Meta
    Posted September 28, 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Over one hundred protesters from the Appalachian coalfields were arrested in front of the White House today, defiantly calling on the Obama administration to abolish mountaintop removal mining. As part of the Appalachia Rising events, the coalfield residents took part in a multi-day series of events to bring the escalating human rights, environmental and health care crisis to the nation’s capitol.


  42. Kim
    Posted December 13, 2010 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Not sure if you noticed it, but the Republicans blocked the new mine safety bill.


  43. Kim
    Posted September 16, 2014 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    A new study shows that black lung is now more prevalent among miners than it has been since the 70s.


    “The study comes as the coal industry is fighting the Obama administration over more stringent coal-dust rules.”

  44. Kim
    Posted January 18, 2018 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Blankenship is running for Senate.


  45. Meta
    Posted March 20, 2018 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Politico: “GOP fears another potential electoral disaster: The national GOP is flummoxed over what to do about the surging candidacy of coal baron and ex-con Don Blankenship.”

    National Republicans — on the heels of the Roy Moore and Rick Saccone debacles — worry they’re staring down their latest potential midterm election fiasco: coal baron and recent federal prisoner Don Blankenship.

    With Blankenship skyrocketing in the West Virginia Republican Senate primary and blanketing the airwaves with ads assailing his fractured field of rivals as career politicians, senior party officials are wrestling with how, or even whether, to intervene. Many of them are convinced that Blankenship, who served a one-year sentence after the deadly 2010 explosion at his Upper Big Branch Mine, would be a surefire loser against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin — and potentially become a national stain for the party.

    Read more:

One Trackback

  1. By Senator Mark Maynard on November 16, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    […] speaking of West Virginia and coal mining, do you remember a few years ago, when we were discussing Don Blankenship, the mine-owning teabagger who cut corners and ignored regulations until it cost 29 …? Well it looks like he finally might be going to prison for his actions at the Upper Big Branch […]

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