The CEO of Massey Energy in 2003: Violations, Schmiolations:
Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, which owns the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia that just had an explosion that killed at least 25 people, likes to spread around the cash. In the past decade, he's given nearly 100 grand to almost all Republican candidates and causes, including over $30,000 to the National Senatorial Republican Committee just this past November. Other recipients of his largess include Senator Jim Inhofe, the West Virginia Republican State Executive Committee, Massey's own PAC (which, in turn, has given money to Eric Cantor, among others), and West Virginians for Life PAC.
In other words, this scumfucking worm, this Blankenship, has buttered every corner of his bread, owning politicians from local judges to big, bad senators. No wonder this vicious son of a bitch has gotten away with so many safety violations over the years. Who the fuck's gonna enforce 'em? (And this is way, way more complicated than just one man and his graft, but, still, let's focus on Blankenship, because, you know, fuck him.)
Things don't happen in a vacuum. Disasters like this one come from years of neglect that should have led to imprisonment for someone. Here's the details from a 2003 Forbes article by Bernard Condon:
"In October 2000 the floor of a 72-acre wastewater reservoir built above an abandoned mine in Kentucky collapsed, sending black sludge through the mine and out into a tributary of the Big Sandy River. The sludge killed fish and plants for 36 miles downstream. Water supplies were shut down in several towns for a month. In total, 230 million gallons spilled out, 20 times the volume of the crude oil from the Exxon Valdez. Lawns nearby were covered in as much as 7 feet of muck.
"Blankenship says the accident 'could have happened to anyone' and partly blames faulty maps of the old mine. But the company had had a similar (though much smaller) accident six years earlier and had been told to seal part of the reservoir. Further, the reservoir had shown signs of leaking right before the accident and Massey failed to report that fact to regulators as required, according to the U.S. Mine Safety & Health Administration. The cleanup has cost $58 million so far.
"In June 2001 a pump at a mine near Madison, W.Va. sprang a leak during the night shift. Instead of shutting it down, workers handed the problem off to a maintenance crew in the morning. Over the next five hours 30,000 gallons of sludge emptied into Robinson Creek below. The company never told the regulators about the accident; Blankenship says workers made an honest mistake in believing the leak would be contained. Regulators were alerted by residents calling in to report their river had turned black. There were three more illegal discharges into the river over the next two months.
"The state's Surface Mine Board, which includes the vice chairman of the state lobbying group for the coal industry, called Massey's actions at Madison 'absolutely the worst behavior by any company that any member of this board has ever seen over the decades that this board has been in existence.'
"Over the two years through 2001 Massey was cited by West Virginia officials for violating regulations 501 times. Its three biggest rivals, mining twice as much coal in the state as Massey, were cited a collective 175 times. Blankenship says Massey is unfairly targeted by regulators. 'We don't pay much attention to the violation count,' he says."
That was in 2003. How much more since then? How much led to now? How clean is coal with blood on it?