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Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship came to the National Press Club last week.
And left a lasting impression.
And the impression was this:
Don Blankenship hates the police.
The police in this case work at the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
Blankenship was asked:
With the benefit of hindsight, what could you have done, and what have you done, to minimize the chance of an explosion like the one that claimed 29 lives?
And Blankenship answered:
I would have sued the police earlier.
In this case – MSHA.
If it were up to Blankenship, the federal police would just go away so that the coal and oil companies could strip mine, pollute and endanger America to their hearts’ content.
If it were up to Blankenship, the police would allow corporate America to thrive by “leaving it alone.”
It also became clear that Blankenship has a low opinion of reporters.
Blankenship said that he doesn’t mind reporters having opinions.
Just get the facts first before you form those opinions.
“The only thing I’m asking you is do a little bit of thought before you form an opinion,” Blankenship told the reporters at the Press Club. “Get some facts.”
And where might we get some facts, Don?
At the federal police hating Manhattan Institute.
Specifically, Blankenship recommends a Manhattan Institute energy “expert” named Robert Bryce.
Blankenship recommended Bryce’s book – Power Hungry: The “Myths” of Green Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future.
And what might those real fuels be?
Coal, nuclear, oil.
And what might one of those myths of green energy be?
“Oil is dirty.”
(Oil is not dirty. Just look at the Gulf of Mexico – it’s clean now!)
Blankenship wants America to believe that the deaths of the 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch mine resulted from an Act of God.
Or an unavoidable mistake.
At the Press Club, he put it this way:
“Politicians will tell you we’re going to do something so this never happens again. You won’t hear me say that because I believe the physics of natural law and God trump whatever man tries to do. When you get earthquakes under ground, whether you get broken floors, whether you
get gas inundations, whether you get roof falls, oftentimes are unavoidable, just as other accidents are in society.”
Sometimes accidents are unavoidable.
Sometimes they are avoidable.
And sometimes they are due to corporate recklessness.
The cops at MSHA that Massey and Blankenship have sued and want to continue to sue – reported a few months before the blast that killed the 29 miners that Massey was operating the Upper Big Branch mine with “reckless disregard” for the safety of the workers at the mine.
That’s the standard a prosecutor would have to meet to prosecute Massey and the responsible executives for manslaughter.
If I’m driving my car down a West Virginia road at 90 mph and I lose control and kill someone, I will be arrested by the state police.
And prosecuted for manslaughter.
And probably spend time in jail.
I didn’t intend to kill that person.
But I acted with reckless disregard for that person’s safety.
The federal cops say that Massey Energy operated the Upper Big Branch mine in reckless disregard of the safety of the workers.
And 29 of them died.
So, why aren’t the responsible parties being arrested?
And prosecuted for manslaughter?
Massey Energy’s public relations campaign – featuring Don Blankenship last week at the National Press Club – is meant to make the police look bad – and counter any move to bring a serious prosecution against those responsible for the 29 miner deaths.
Massey message to America – leave us alone.
There are reporters who trying to put some facts and perspective in the way of Massey’s drive to denigrate and dodge the police.
The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank went to Blankenship’s Press Club speech and came back with some advice:
“Government should push back against a corporate culture that has lost its sense of shame.”
Also, check out Ken Ward’s Coal Tattoo.
Also, recent reporting by NPR’s Howard Berkes. At a reception prior to his speech at the Press Club, Berkes asked Blankenship about a survey taken last month that shows that 24 percent of Massey underground miners say they are afraid of being disciplined or fined if they raise safety concerns.
Blankenship told Berkes:
“I would disagree with your results.”
Wait a second Don.
Those aren’t Howard Berkes’ results.
Those are your results.
Massey Energy’s own survey.
Are you afraid of being disciplined or fined if you raise safety concerns?
24 % – Yes.
Trapped – Blankenship responds:
“I don’t know what that survey would say at competitor companies.”
And then Blankenship starts lashing out at Washington and reporters.
“We know the coal miners better than anybody in Washington knows them or any of the reporters know them. I grew up with them. Lived with them. Still live among them. We care more about them than anybody else does.”
Berkes shoots back: “They tell me they are afraid. The ones I speak with say they will be punished, they will lose their jobs, they won’t be able to get another job. Miner after miner after miner tells us this.”
“I don’t know whether I believe that part – first of all,” Blankenship says. “You can get people to say almost anything.”
Almost anything Don.
RUSSELL MOKHIBER is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter.