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WV Mine Explosion
April 5, 2010 9:17 PM   Subscribe

7 Dead, 19 Missing "The Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA, has cited the Upper Big Branch Mine for hundreds of violations in recent years, including 10 so far this year related to legal requirements for ventilation systems to control methane and dust. The company has contested numerous fines, including two in January totaling more than $130,000 related to mine ventilation."
posted by wv kay in ga (57 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
More relevant links (weirdly) over here.
posted by carsonb at 9:25 PM on April 5, 2010


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posted by effugas at 9:37 PM on April 5, 2010


I know there's a lot of necessary evils in the world, but the coal industry make me want to... I'd better not say.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:46 PM on April 5, 2010


I am a son, grandson, and great grandson of coal miners, and I have this to say. The American coal mining industry is a crime against humanity. The computer you are reading this on? Lives were stolen to power it. Any time someone rails against unions, complains about industry regulations, bitches about universal heathcare. They are telling you that the life of a coal miner is worth even less than the black-lung-inducing shit they breathe in day in and day out to power the computers the fake John Galts of this world use to spew their evil.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:39 PM on April 5, 2010 [76 favorites]


Death toll now at 25, rescue efforts suspended.. Goddamn it all. All I can see is the poor woman crying on the local news, telling about her family calling to ask if Kevin was working day or night shift. He was working night. I hate this and I hate coal and I hate Massey. Get the fuck out of my state, you avaricious bastards.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 11:11 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is just Sago all over again. I was crying then and I'm crying now. Dirigibleman is right—we pay for our electricity with the lives of poor folk. Wake the fuck up, America. Your people are dying for energy and it's needless. Is coal still the cheapest form of energy when you're buying it with blood?
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 11:17 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the New York Times:

Federal records indicate that the Upper Big Branch mine has recorded an injury rate worse than the national average for similar operations for at least six of the past 10 years. The records also show that the mine had 458 violations in 2009, with a total of $897,325 in safety penalties assessed against it last year. It has paid $168,393 in safety penalties....

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

posted by sallybrown at 11:25 PM on April 5, 2010


Is coal still the cheapest form of energy when you're buying it with blood?

Sure, as long as the blood is from people you don't care about.
posted by rodgerd at 11:56 PM on April 5, 2010


Coal is the devil's excrement. Leave it in the fucking ground.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:56 PM on April 5, 2010


I grew up in northern WV (Morgantown, with the university).

That means that I was able to get an education and get out.

I know more than a few who weren't so lucky.

Coal miners made tens thousands of caltrops and threw them off of overpasses to stop the coal trucks from going through during a strike. They attacked journalists who were trying to interview them. I still view them as the good guys by comparison.

Mostly our area changed over to mountain top removal by the time I lived there. Fewer deaths from this kind of explosion, more deaths from poison streams and toxic air.

Coal is bad news, and it will only get more popular as the cost of oil exceeds the cost of refining coal into petrol.

I am pro nuclear, pro solar, pro gasifier and pro biofuel.

Even though it means many of the towns I grew up with will dry up and blow away, I am profoundly anti-coal.
posted by poe at 1:13 AM on April 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


I work in an underground gold mine. This kind of thing - entirely apart from your views on coal itself - is absolutely unforgivable. We have the ability to make underground mines relatively safe places these days. We can properly ventilate every part of a mine. We can make people carry light, portable gas detectors that set off an alarm when you're in an area with some tiny fraction of a harmful gas. We know how to prevent collapses and fires and flooding. There is no excuse for this.

Yes, there are still accidents. People still get crushed under trucks, and caught in conveyor belts, and fall down open stopes. These events are tragic, but they all come down to human error. Things like this? Explosions due to poor ventilation? That is nothing short of criminal. This was not a freak, unavoidable accident. This was a certainty, given the conditions and the lack of proper ventilation. The CEO and the site manager should be tried for manslaughter for all 25 people. These events are so easy to fix - all it takes is a manager who puts the safety of the workers before profit. The cost of proper ventilation and proper safety equipment should be as inegral a part of the cost of mining as explosives and trucks. If you can't afford to provide it, then your mine is unprofitable and should close down. That's it. The people who decided to cut costs and make a little bit more money by reducing the ventilation are directly responsible for this.
posted by twirlypen at 3:40 AM on April 6, 2010 [23 favorites]


These events are so easy to fix - all it takes is a manager who puts the safety of the workers before profit.

That's asking a lot for companies like Massey. I grew up in Raleigh County right in mining territory - a mine was just down the road from our farm in fact. Massey has always had a reputation for being a cash grabbing corp that ultimately considers the death of miners as collateral damage.

These communities are tight and everybody knows everybody. I'm watching Facebook with trepidation, waiting for the names to start showing up.
posted by custardfairy at 3:47 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


What a heartbreak, and on a day when miners everywhere were elated by the miracle in China of more than 100 miners having been freed from flooded mines.

"There are a couple of versions of an old coalfield maxim. One says that mine-safety laws are written in the blood of miners; the other that dead miners make the best lobbyists. Both are true" - from Ken Ward's 2007 article in Washington Monthly, Shafted: How the Bush administration reversed decades of progress on mine safety.

For news about this disaster and and any follow-on stories, Ken Ward who writes for the Charleston Gazette is one of the foremost journalists - see his blog Coal Tattoo and his Twitter feed, kenwardjr.

Less than 2 weeks ago, he reported that despite mandates for 415 active mines to be equipped with communications & tracking gear that would help miners in an explosion - requirements instituted after Sago and other disasters in 2006 - only 34 mines, or about 8%, are in compliance.

Coal fatalities - 1900 through 2009

A miner's prayer
posted by madamjujujive at 4:02 AM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I, too, am from coal country. I have family who have died in other mine disasters. My father is severely disabled, and the mines did it to him. And they keep running those obscene 'clean coal' commercials, as if human lives weren't an essential piece of the energy source.

Damn everyone in Massey management to hell.
posted by winna at 5:35 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Even a shallow exploration of the companies like Massey, or Massey in particular, will reveal careless disregard for miner safety, but also, our government's own failure to police these companies as thoroughly as possible. The Coal money does a fine job of convincing politicians to argue against greater safety measure or encouraging the inhabitants of the White House to order agencies to let up on their scrutiny.

For as much Massey couldn't care less about the men or the environment, the system for the most part is happy to step back and allow it to do so. Undoubtedly, we'll hear days or weeks later how this mine had been cited for numerous violations and fined, but nothing done to fix the matters.

Perhaps I'm too far removed from the miners in my family tree (grandfather), but it seems a bit hyperbole to equate coal power with blood. According to this article from Forbes, coal mining doesn't even make it into the top ten most dangerous jobs. A higher percentage of law enforcement officers are killed everywhere, so should we say our peace and safe are bought in blood? Steelworkers are on the list, do we automatically criticize any product made of steel?

By no means is coal mining not dangerous and run by corporations that treat the mines of Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania like colonies, whose inhabitants are disposable and replaceable, but it is an important industry until the day we can replace that 50% power that it provides. It needs to made safer, the companies brought in line through vicious oversight, and the power it provides replaced with green alternatives. I'm not going to view the electricity running my television, my computer, or my microwave anymore tainted than the gasoline in my car or any other product that is produced in an industry where people can be and are killed in its production. If coal mining is to be viewed sorrowfully, it should be because many of the deaths and accidents that happen are often ones that did not need to happen.

My heart and prayers go out to the families of those miners.

.
posted by Atreides at 5:41 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not going to view the electricity running my television, my computer, or my microwave anymore tainted than the gasoline in my car or any other product that is produced in an industry where people can be and are killed in its production.

So that means you view the "electricity running my television, my computer, or my microwave" as at least somewhat tainted with blood, then? I mean, the least we can do is not lie to ourselves about the hidden costs of the way we live.
posted by mediareport at 6:09 AM on April 6, 2010


A higher percentage of law enforcement officers are killed everywhere, so should we say our peace and safe[ty] are bought in blood?

Yes!
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:25 AM on April 6, 2010


There was an investigative journalist on Democracy Now last week who just published a book Dragline about some anti-mountaintop-removal protesters. Her presentation was moving. I don't know how factual it was, but she said one of the biggest actions was against Massey who was performing a mountaintop removal operation on the highest mountain for like fifty miles around it. They archive their shows and I am sure you can find it fast if you google on dragline democracy now. The dragline is the name of the machine that eats up the mountain.

It is very sad about the miners. Wrongdoers should be jailed but you can be sure the buck will not be stopping on the desk of the Massey chief executive.
posted by bukvich at 6:25 AM on April 6, 2010


I have family who worked for Massey and companies like them. I never lost anyone to a disaster - no, all the men in my family gasped their way off the planet, one tortured breath at a time, with the paperwork for their black lung claims still fluttering on the kitchen table, never completed because the company kept insisting, "more documentation, more documentation."
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:02 AM on April 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


BTW, the lead article on the Massey energy website is about how 2009 was a record year for safety.
posted by Mcable at 7:05 AM on April 6, 2010


.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:17 AM on April 6, 2010


So that means you view the "electricity running my television, my computer, or my microwave" as at least somewhat tainted with blood, then? I mean, the least we can do is not lie to ourselves about the hidden costs of the way we live.

There pretty much isn't any modern convenience that cannot be associated with a great cost of production, be it at the expense of lives, quality of life, or the environment. It's simply a fact of life. Does that mean we should accept it for what it is? No. We should strive to reduce those costs as much as possible, such as making coal mining as safe as possible. What I wrote before was simply in response to an understandably emotional statement.

My condolences to your family toodleydoodley. My grandfather suffered from the black lung, and while he died many years ago, I can still remember the haggard coughing that he increasingly was susceptible to as he grew older.
posted by Atreides at 7:25 AM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


According to this article from Forbes, coal mining doesn't even make it into the top ten most dangerous jobs. A higher percentage of law enforcement officers are killed everywhere, so should we say our peace and safe are bought in blood? Steelworkers are on the list, do we automatically criticize any product made of steel?

Well, when cops do their job right, they make people safe and protect society from criminals, and even in this wondrous age we still don't have robots clever enough to do that work instead. And steelworkers produce an invaluable material that can be made into things almost nothing else can (from skyscrapers to wind turbines).

Whereas the net product of coal mining is a noxious cloud that kills 25,000 people every year in the US alone and pumps so much mercury into our common supply of fresh water that there are essentially no mercury-free fish left in the America's streams, all to produce an admittedly vital commodity - electricity - that we can produce by numerous other means that kill nobody and create no pollution whatsoever.

Coal is an inexpensive source of electricity only because we have externalized the incalulable costs accrued from its mining and burning. If the coal industry had to pay the full price of the damage it causes, there would be no more coal industry. Bear that in mind the next time someone tries to argue solar power's just too expensive.
posted by gompa at 8:30 AM on April 6, 2010 [11 favorites]


There was an investigative journalist on Democracy Now last week who just published a book Dragline about some anti-mountaintop-removal protesters. Her presentation was moving. I don't know how factual it was, but she said one of the biggest actions was against Massey who was performing a mountaintop removal operation on the highest mountain for like fifty miles around it. They archive their shows and I am sure you can find it fast if you google on dragline democracy now. The dragline is the name of the machine that eats up the mountain.

Here it is:

“We Are Tearing Down Our Mountains”: Photojournalist Antrim Caskey on West Virginia’s Fight Against Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining
posted by homunculus at 9:08 AM on April 6, 2010


The CEO and the site manager should be tried for manslaughter for all 25 people.

Seriously. When a company so clearly puts its people needlessly in harm's way for the sake of the bottom line, criminal charges should be involved.
posted by quin at 9:13 AM on April 6, 2010


Exqctly, gompa. I live in one of the most polluted areas in the entire nation, due to what? Coal. Beautiful mountain state my ass. We're destroying the mountains and killing the animals and people who live here. I have spent my whole life watching one of the most naturally gorgeous places in the country destroy itself for that stupid stuff. Coal is killing West Virginia.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 9:14 AM on April 6, 2010


Coal is an inexpensive source of electricity only because we have externalized the incalulable costs accrued from its mining and burning. If the coal industry had to pay the full price of the damage it causes, there would be no more coal industry. Bear that in mind the next time someone tries to argue solar power's just too expensive.

I agree with you gompa. Arguably, a lot of the true "costs" of many things in our society would make for alternatives to be more price competitive if they were applied. I would love to see a world where coal wasn't mined. At this time, however, we aren't in a position to simply turn off all the lights and close up all the mines. I'm all for building massive solar plants out in the West, establishing wind mills in the Appalachians, and other energy alternatives. In the best light, we find a way to give those 40k some miners a means to transfer into those industries to sustain the economies that the mining jobs keep alive. While there is an obvious goal to move toward, it can't be done overnight. What we can do is actually add some backbone to the regulation of coal mining and start to set some of the many things wrong with it right.
posted by Atreides at 9:38 AM on April 6, 2010


my immigrant grandfather broke both legs in a mining accident when he was still in his middle teens. that ended his career as a miner & started his career as a farmer.

by the time i graduated from high school, i'd actually seen pictures of how coal is mined--grown men pretty much crawling through spaces for the privilege of laying on their backs and wielding pick axes for 8+ hours/day, crouching in the darkness with a headlamp & the ever present pick axe clawing away at a vein. black lung wasn't a theory or speculation, it was real, it was documented, and almost everyone knew someone with a family member somewhere who was destined for a long, painful death. cave-ins and explosions and collapses weren't commonplace, but we all knew they happened.

i couldn't imagine why anyone would willingly subject themselves to the life of a miner. but you know, in 1974, those mining jobs were paying $13/hour if memory serves me correctly. the steel mills paid a little better, but even in the ohio valley there were only so many mill jobs, and someone had to work the mines to feed the mills.

i'm conflicted about this. PLEASE DO NOT CONSTRUE THAT TO MEAN THAT I DO NOT THINK THIS IS A TERRIBLE TRAGEDY BECAUSE IT IS. it's a dirty, dangerous job that leaves people, sometimes at best, crippled & coughing. but the guys i knew who worked in the mines (not many, just a few) knew the risks and not only took the jobs, but thought they were getting good jobs. the miners knew the risks & make the decision & take the chance.

i mourn the losses, but support their right to choose.

.

again, i think this is a terrible terrible tragedy.
posted by msconduct at 10:49 AM on April 6, 2010


it's a dirty, dangerous job that leaves people, sometimes at best, crippled & coughing. but the guys i knew who worked in the mines (not many, just a few) knew the risks and not only took the jobs, but thought they were getting good jobs. the miners knew the risks & make the decision & take the chance.

You're right - to the extent that the choice existed in the first place. In my family, we had one great aunt who'd left the holler and seen the world, been to college, was just a ludicrous overachiever. She had a few pennies laid by, and when a niece or nephew looked promising, attending to their studies in the face of easy work/easy pay in the mines or machinery shops, she'd send them to college (WVU).

Some only lasted a few semesters, because we didn't have a culture of education in our family. Some stuck, though, probably because some other teacher saw a spark in them and took them along a little further.

That was us, though. most families didn't even have an aunt.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:42 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


BTW it wasn't just the men who suffered back in the day. My grandfather's job in the mine, or one of them, was caring for the "pit ponies," the horses that drew the coal carts through the mine. They were lowered down the shaft as young horses and stabled underground, and frequently remained underground until they died. He told me they generally went blind from living in the perpetual darkness.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:46 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every time there is a mine accident, we learn the mine in question was the subject of a long series of violations, complaints, fines, etc. One begins to wonder if there is such a thing as a mine that *isn't* a bill of particulars awaiting a disaster.

Hoping a few more guys make it out ok.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:48 PM on April 6, 2010


I was really kind of hoping for a little more out of this thread, a little more context or something. That's what I get for going to a conference I guess. Perhaps in the coming weeks I'll put together an fpp on modern coal mining, blankenship, massey, the NMWA, and the Obama administrations decisions to approve every single WV mountaintop removal project awaiting permit, after saying he wouldn't.

It's not just WV though, it's Montana, it's Colorado, it's eastern Kentucky and Tennessee and Pennsylvania too. What is remarkable though is that we, as West Virginians, supply a massive volume of power to NYC and Jersey, and a good portion of the eastern sea board. Interestingly, we actually (every single west virginian) actually pay a transmission fee to the power company (and the state) to send other states their power, but the other states' customers only pay the transmission company, not the state. And now we're getting the TrAIL abomination. , which I had the unfortunate displeasure of viewing this past weekend and which, interestingly, my dad provides armed security for.

Not to mention, we've got Longview, the new power plan, which was initially slated to be a 1.2B build but is now pushing 2B and 3 months behind schedule. Blueprints were made in India, and the boilermakers built them EXACTLY to spec. The spec was off by 1.5", and now the entire boiler has to come down and be rebuilt. For an idea of size, there are up to 500 workers on 1 boiler at one time. Now the original company is being booted, but it means all the workers have to get laid off before they can get rehired. It was supposed to be a "mine mouth" operation, they built a 4.5 mile conveyor to bring coal directly to the plant from the mine, but now they're hauling it in from all over the place. The initial designs had them dumping hot water effluent down abandoned mine shafts several miles deep, thankfully that got a NO, even though it's somehow not illegal. They're also now facing an issue of extremely low demand, so they're not actually sure at what capacity the plant will run once it's finished, some 600million dollars over budget.

Oh, and the land? Owned by a county commissioner's family. The money? Largely a grant from the state. The employees? Mostly out of state---but I won't begrudge them work. Tax gifts...I mean, it never ends.

I'll stop rambling and save it for an FPP, but having done graduate work in WV history, it's so plainly clear to see Globalization theory present in a microcosm in WV---extraction, subjugation, and exploitation. First it was salt, then it was timber, then it was coal, and now it's coal with timber making a comeback.
posted by TomMelee at 2:44 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


God damn Don Blankenship and his lying, lobbying ass to hell. My Dad's family is from Monongah so I grew up with stories about mine tragedy and the value of unions. There really aren't that many underground mining jobs left in WV but as long as workers and companies think that all WV is good for is coal then that's all it will be good for. This story from the Coal Tattoo blog sums up what bothers me the most. The folks in southern WV have so little going on that they cling to the coal jobs even after something like this. It's like a dog that keeps coming back to an abusive owner to be beaten because that's all it knows.

but the electricity's soooo cheap!
posted by irisclara at 2:45 PM on April 6, 2010


Thank you TomMelee for pushing on this issue. I, too, had hoped for a more informative post but you get the post you make not the one you wish for and I didn't make a better one. I'm looking forward to your big post on WV exploitation. In the meantime, keep the info coming. I didn't know the name of that TrAil thing you mentioned but I know my Dad considers it a huge waste of money (like the fancy new Fairmont interstate ramp). Electricity has been a big export for years but should the state really be subsidizing such a huge project solely for the benefit of Massey? Sorry, I can't help myself.

GOD DAMN DON BLANKENSHIP AND HIS LYING, LOBBYING ASS.
posted by irisclara at 3:04 PM on April 6, 2010


I know this is a pretty small, bullshit kind of thing, but to anyone on Twitter, I'm trying to get the #chargedonblankenship hashtag going. 458 safety violations in 2009, 58 just last month (including having absolutely NO ventilation plan or system), leading to a disaster of exactly the same sort as the 2006 Sago Mine Disaster. In 2003 he admitted that "We don't pay much attention to the violation count." And he spent $3 million to buy his own personal WV Supreme Court Chief Justice. I know this is kind of pissing in the wind, and that the likelihood of him actually seeing any ill-effects from his homicidally negligent ways is minimal, but some awareness of and good old-fashioned outrage about this guy couldn't hurt.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 3:12 PM on April 6, 2010


"...but it seems a bit hyperbole to equate coal power with blood. According to this article from Forbes, coal mining doesn't even make it into the top ten most dangerous jobs."

Yeah well, the difference here is that it's mostly preventable. That's why OSHA has cited the mines for contravention of basic safety rules that are there because we've learned the hard way that if you don't, people are going to die. The difference for police and other high-risk jobs is that it's a lot more difficult to control the risks involved.
posted by sneebler at 5:08 PM on April 6, 2010


apologies to wv kay in georgia if it sounded like I wanted more from HER in this post. That's not what I meant, and she and I have corresponded via memail. I was hoping for a big long thread full of lots of links from particiants. There's a good number here though so I'm happy to call it a success. I guess I wanted less GRAR COAL and more YAY PEOPLE.

Not to get all MeTa here or anything, (I'd do it there but jessamyn closed the thread, understandably) but I just want to say again (like I've done a million times and been chided for a million and one) that it's easy to complain about something but it's hard to address your involvement in a social injustice, especially when it's something as tertiary as your energy usage or knowing the source of your consumer goods.

That said, there's a facebook group gaining momentum right now called something like "KEEP YOUR PORCH LIGHT ON FOR THE MINERS" which I find somewhat ironic...wasting cheap power as a tribute to the people who died to bring it to you.
posted by TomMelee at 5:19 PM on April 6, 2010


That said, there's a facebook group gaining momentum right now called something like "KEEP YOUR PORCH LIGHT ON FOR THE MINERS" which I find somewhat ironic...wasting cheap power as a tribute to the people who died to bring it to you.

Yeah, my boyfriend's mom just said something like that on facebook. This is what I said:

Turning on your porch light is a good gesture, but it's actually worse because it uses up more of the electricity that we have to mine coal for in the first place. Your friend Dave is right, light a candle instead. The less electricity we use, the less powerful we make the coal executives who let miners die. Their negligence and lobbying is what lead to this tragedy in the first place.

I tried to not seem disrespectful with it, and hopefully it worked. But damn do I hate to see people burning more coal for to remember men who died because of coal.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 6:20 PM on April 6, 2010


The porch light thing sort of raises up the irony of all electric cars. People buy electric cars so they don't have to buy gasoline, reduce oil use, yay for the environment! But, er, wait, this will create an increase in the demand of electricity, which drives up the need for coal (until there's enough alternative energy sources).

A thorough post on coal mining would be excellent. I did a post last year which referenced mountain top removal, but didn't focus on it.
posted by Atreides at 6:56 PM on April 6, 2010


Here's some 2006 workplace safety stats. 156 dead miners, 34.5 per 100k, 8th most dangerous job, police not in the top 10.

The negligence in these accidents is criminal.
posted by dglynn at 8:24 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whoops! When I said the transmission line would only benefit Massey I was obviously typing without thinking. Of course it will benefit Allegheny Energy even more.
posted by irisclara at 9:35 PM on April 6, 2010


Massey's business model: kill, mame, violate, deny, slap wrist, pay fines, repeat
posted by Juicy Avenger at 11:22 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's some 2006 workplace safety stats. 156 dead miners, 34.5 per 100k, 8th most dangerous job, police not in the top 10.

My list was from 2008, though I think citing 2007 figures. I regret randomly choosing the police for my example, as it seems everyone is latching on to it. How about we go with roofers from that 2006 information? Or fishermen from the 2007?

It really doesn't matter. The point, which made above, isn't an important one to this post but was merely in reaction to something that was said.

As of this morning, no contact with the four men who were trapped by the explosion. Let's pray for better news later this day.
posted by Atreides at 6:27 AM on April 7, 2010


Caperton v Massey Coal (Legal Information Institute, Cornell)

"Justice Brent Benjamin of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia refused to recuse himself from the appeal of the $50 million jury verdict in this case, even though the CEO of the lead defendant spent $3 million supporting his campaign for a seat on the court—more than 60% of the total amount spent to support Justice Benjamin’s campaign— while preparing to appeal the verdict against his company. After winning election to the court, Justice Benjamin cast the deciding vote in the court’s 3-2 decision overturning that verdict." (from the Brief for the Petitioner, linked to on the Cornell page.)


At a celebration party that night [of the election], Blankenship [Massey CEO] denied he had bought an election.

“There’s people who have been in politics for a long time that have bought votes. I’ve never bought a vote,” he said. “All I did was set out to help people understand the issues, and let the people decide.”




Even though this case was one mining company against another, I think it's a good example of what a lot of us are afraid of with regard to corporate campaign contributions. And I may be editorializing, but it seems like Massey has more than enough money to pay out on those Black Lung claims and maybe provide for their miners a bit more.

But, as in many things like this (environmental regs for example), it is often much cheaper to pay the fine repeatedly than to invest in change. After all, corporations are out to make money.

I'd like to make this an FPP but I'll just editorialize.

I just can't believe that we still have people who work underground doing this job. The idealistic part of me just wants a magic wand to create a bunch of sun-side jobs making solar panels or electric cars or something. I know they "choose" to work there, but as others have said, not everyone really has a choice. If you want a good job (meaning decent pay and benefits for your family), you have to go where that's offered. You can't just move away from your one company town without having any money to begin with. Vicious circle.

It makes me so mad I couldn't even look for stuff for this comment until now without getting all ragey at the internet.

So, if they can buy off a judge at a local level, I wonder what will happen when corporations can actually contribute, in addition to the CEOs, COOs, and other executives. What happens to mining regulations then? What happens to miners with legitimate suits against these companies who end up with judges who have been bought their seats by the very same companies?
posted by sio42 at 6:52 AM on April 7, 2010


The policy solution for avoiding catastrophic climate change is pretty simple: we must leave most remaining coal and unconventional oil and gas underground.

Carbon pricing is one way to encourage that, but ultimately our success or failure in curbing the cumulative emissions that cause climate change will depend on what proportion of these fuels we burn.

There are also big benefits that accompany moving away from sources of energy like coal: from decreased water pollution and habitat destruction, to fewer accidents and deaths like these and the recent ones in China.
posted by sindark at 12:51 PM on April 8, 2010


Looks like this thread is pretty much dead but if anyone is still following, a segment of the Storycorps interview I did with my dad will be featured tomorrow morning on NPR Morning Edition at 20 minutes after the beginning of the show. In the excerpt he talks about being from a mining family in a mining community and I learn that his dad actually died in the mine. I had always thought he died of a heart attack and no one wanted to talk about it.
posted by irisclara at 7:50 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's the story from Morning Edition. I haven't had a chance to listen to the interview, but a thank you to you and your father for sharing.
posted by Atreides at 6:35 AM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


irisclara, that made me weep - I can only imagine how it was for you to hear this news from your Dad and to tap into his grief. It's quite a testament to the burden that he carried that he did not/could not share that with you before. That is a powerful piece, I thank you both for sharing too.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:28 AM on April 9, 2010


Don Blankenship Called Safety Regulators ‘As Silly As Global Warming’

Don Blankenship: Investors, Politicians Begin Calling For Massey Head To Resign
posted by homunculus at 8:54 AM on April 13, 2010


Miners from Virginia Blast Banned From Coworkers Funerals
posted by homunculus at 12:17 PM on April 15, 2010


wow, i just came back to see what was going on here.

that last bit is absolutely awful. WTF?

"Families of workers killed in the West Virginia mine explosion are beginning to bury their loved ones, as residents speak out against Massey Energy and government regulators responsible for the disaster.

In an especially vindictive move, workers said that Massey has refused to allow miners time off so that they can attend the funerals of their coworkers."


christ.

also, irisclara - i heard your story. mefi makes the world such a small place. i don't know the right adjective, but it's touching (?) that you were able to get your dad to talk about it. i want to say awesome but that's the not the right word. i'm still swearing in my head about the funeral thing so i can't come up with the right word.
posted by sio42 at 6:47 AM on April 20, 2010


What a bunch of crock. It's seems like Massey is deliberately trying to get itself labeled one of America's most evil corporations.
posted by Atreides at 10:54 AM on April 20, 2010


Obama and Biden to attend memorial service for miners on Sunday in Beckley, WV. Obama is set to deliver a eulogy as well.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 12:47 PM on April 20, 2010


You know, I dislike political grandstanding no matter who does it. Political eulogies are such a joke...he didn't know these guys, and now he wants to call them martyrs or something or other.

I wonder what Obama's gonna say? Don't worry, this won't happen again, from now on I'm only going continue approving mountain top removal projects, and all that happens from them is floods and habitat destruction?

/grumble

Perhaps if the administration was actually doing something outside the pockets of the mining companies (and not against the wishes of the EPA), he wouldn't be there at all. Sorta like Bushy flying over NoLa a day late and a dollar short. Maybe this can be a GD reality check.
posted by TomMelee at 12:54 PM on April 20, 2010


In Coal Country, a Culture of Fear: Massey Intimidates Workers, Families Into Silence

Massey Denies It Prevented Miners From Attending Funerals
posted by homunculus at 2:25 PM on April 23, 2010


2 Mines Show How Safety Practices Vary Widely
posted by homunculus at 4:13 PM on April 23, 2010


Thanks folks. I think the StoryCorps people did a great job editing the segment. What got me is that no one had ever told me how Grandad died. I'd learned about the Monongah mine explosion but not about my own Grandad. When I was talking to my Dad after the radio piece he told me a story from the time he went to the mine with his Dad. He said Grandad had pointed to a spot and said that a man they both knew had been crushed to death by a roof collapse on that spot while eating his lunch. Dad said what struck him was that after the man had been crushed, the next day all the men had to pass the spot on the way into the work area. The men never talked about being afraid. They just went in the hole and came out maimed if they came out at all.

And I thought telemarketing sucked. I am totally humbled.
posted by irisclara at 12:08 AM on April 25, 2010


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