Friday, April 09, 2010

Which bolgia?

Where in the Inferno would Dante place Massey Energy chairman and CEO Don L. Blankenship? With the indifferent or the avaricious? Those violent against their neighbor? Falsifiers? Traitors?
According to federal records, MSHA cited the Upper Big Branch mine for more than 1,300 safety violations from 2005 through Monday. Fifty citations came in the last month alone. [source]

Given the track record of safety violations in mines for which he is responsible, I suspect Dante would not be kind.
Many of those fifty citations were for poor ventilation of dust and methane, failure to maintain proper escape ways, and the accumulation of combustible materials. The Charleston Gazette reports that last year, more than ten percent of the enforcement actions taken by MSHA at the Upper Big Branch mine were for unwarrantable failure to follow safety rules, compared to about two percent at mines nationwide.

The CEO of Massey Energy, Don Blankenship, has denied any wrongdoing and said that any suspicion the mine was improperly operated was unfounded. [ibid.]
Blankenship hates unions and only 1.8 % of Massey's workers are unionized. If you have union workers they can report unsafe conditions and refuse unsafe work, which would cut into Blankenship's relentless drive to keep the bottom line where he wants it.

Jason Linkins writes at HuffPost:
Over at ThinkProgress, Brad Johnson pulls video of Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship registering complaints in June of 2009 that the safety rules governing mines were "difficult to comply with" and "nonsensical."

Maybe this was a big red flag that something terrible would one day happen?
Why should anyone comply with regulations when there is no serious consequence for non-compliance?
The agency has the power to seek federal court orders or injunctions against mines showing a pattern of violation and posing a hazard to the health and safety of miners. The agency has never used that authority, officials said. [WaPo cited in Linkins' article]
Ah, the mining companies had figured out how to stymie the regulators... and the feds did not tighten the rules. (Well, if you're a free market fundamentalist you assume regulation is bad and unregulated production and commerce work things out. This raging liberal does not have that much faith in human goodness, believe me.) The Obama Administration knew the rules were being gamed and, besides appointing more judges to adjudicate appeals, has seemingly done nothing to tighten the rules.

You all know where the lobbying money is going to come from. Yep, the coal industry. And, thanks to SCOTUS, corporations are entitled to lobby all they want.

Know any regulators who can stand against that? Of congresscritters?


Ellie Finlay said...

Sickening. Utterly sickening.

I wish I could think of a stronger word that was just right but it's late and I'm about to turn in.

So --- I'll say it again: sickening.

Paul said...

May the holy angels attend you this night, Ellie, and may the angels receive those who perished in the mine into paradise.

Ellie Finlay said...

Thank you, my brother.

Amen. Amen.