Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Murder in West Virginia

Today is Tuesday, 6 April 2010.

The Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia, site of Monday’s explosion which killed 25 with 4 missing, has a significant history of safety violations for not properly ventilating methane, the highly combustible gas which caused the tragedy.

The Massey Energy Company, owner of the mine, boasts a poor safety record, and has paid only $168,393 of $897,325 in fines assessed against it for safety violations at Upper Big Branch in 2009 alone. Massey’s CEO is Gerald Blankenship.

According to The New York Times:

“Massey’s commitment to safety has long been questioned in the coalfields,” said Tony Oppegard, a lawyer and mine safety advocate from Kentucky.

Those concerns were heightened in 2006 when an internal memo written by Blankenship, became public. In the memo, Mr. Blankenship instructed the company’s underground mine superintendents to place coal production first.

“This memo is necessary only because we seem not to understand that the coal pays the bills,” he wrote.”

In other words, profits before people: fines for endangering human life are merely another cost of doing business.

Attempts are currently being made to drill a hole some 1,300 to 1,400 feet to reduce methane levels, making it possible to search for the missing miners. One must ask: why aren’t such holes required by law to be drilled as a preventative before methane reaches explosive levels?

The law must be changed. If a company refuses to provide a safe working environment, it shouldn’t merely be fined: it should be forfeit and sold, the proceeds going to the public treasury. The big stick is the only educative device understood by such malefactors of great wealth.

Times article at:



Anonymous rtr said...

Two fundamental reforms are minimally required for any continued viability of capitalism: elimination of corporate personhood and the fiduciary duty to maximize profits.

Both are creatures of purchased law at the bazaar (bizarre) of justice and both foster and perpetuate a culture of amoral societal behavior that directly opposes personal responsible democratic citizenship.

7:22 PM  

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