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Massey to Self-Investigate While Fight For Mine Safety Legislation Continues

It seems as though corporations always get what they want nowadays, and corporate coal giant Massey Energy is no exception. You may remember Massey Energy and CEO Don Blankenship from several of my previous entries, where the negligence of the company’s elite has left many unanswered questions and suspicions of corruption after one of their mines, the Upper Big Branch, had an explosion that eventually resulted in the death of 29 miners.

The same mine which was the site of such a horrific disaster is undergoing an investigation over the causes of the actual explosion…BY MASSEY ENERGY. Yes, that’s correct. Massey Energy is planning on conducting their own investigation and, as WV Gazette’s Coal Tattoo puts it, were recently “given the OK by the Manchin Administration.”

Massey Energy Company today announced that mine safety officials for the state of West Virginia have approved the Company’s plan to conduct its own investigation to determine the cause of the April 5, 2010 explosion at Upper Big Branch. The Company will begin its investigation as soon as it receives approval from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, which is currently reviewing the plan.

(Source: Massey Energy press release found on Coal Tattoo) . . .

Talk about a conflict of interests on so many levels. For Massey Energy, a company who sits in hot water because of their willingness to pay fines rather than fix problems, this comes as very good news. I understand that coal companies have the right to inspect their mines, but something just doesn’t sit right with this. The MSHA review is still underway, so it will be interesting to see the result of that.

It is no secret that Governor Manchin (who is currently running to be Senator Manchin in the Special Election to fill the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s seat) is a friend of coal. Manchin has never come out against Mountaintop Removal Mining, and has received generous donations in the past from coal companies.

From Manchin’s 2000 campaign for secretary of state through his re-election campaign as governor in 2008, he received $281,963 in campaign donations from individuals and companies related to mining, including $12,250 from company PACs. It’s important to note here that the figures for individuals include donations from all people who work in mining-related industries, not just top company officials. According to Follow the Money, a National Institute on Money in State Politics website that tracks campaign donations at the state politics level, the company PAC donations to Manchin included a $500 donation in 2000 from Massey Energy, the company that has been under recent scrutiny for its record of safety violations in the wake of the deadly explosion at its Upper Big Branch Mine in early April.

(Source: The Washington Independent)

Whether anyone likes it or not, coal is the backbone of the West Virginia economy. Manchin realizes this and risks alienating himself by coming out against it or any aspect of the industry. It is understandable for Manchin to support coal, and isn’t out of the question. However, there is a difference between supporting coal and supporting Massey Energy.

Massey Energy and Blankenship continue to get breaks in wake of this disaster, but who is going to help keep the mines safe? Certainly not Massey.

WANTED: Two sitting United States Senators who will campaign and advocate for a piece of legislation to improve mine safety in America.

This ad was answered by the long-serving Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and appointed Senator Carte Goodwin who serves with Rockefeller for West Virginia (appointed to fill the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s seat. Goodwin is the youngest serving United States Senator).

Sen. Carte Goodwin gave his first floor speech on Wednesday, and he did it by making a compelling argument for a comprehensive mine safety bill.

Prior to this week, Goodwin — who has already spoken during committee meetings — had yet to make a floor speech. And, because the Senate is expected to go into recess this week until after the Nov. 2 election, Goodwin’s successor may already be elected by the time they return.

Goodwin took to the floor in support of the Robert C. Byrd Mine and Workplace Safety and Health Act of 2010, a law designed in response to the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

The bill does two main things. First, it gives more whistleblower protections to miners, especially those at non-union mines such as Massey Energy’s. Second, it gives federal mine safety investigators subpoena power, something they now have only in certain instances.

“No coal miner should have to go to work fearing for his safety and no coal miner should fear for his job for raising concerns about that safety,” Goodwin said.

(Source: Charleston Daily Mail)

Rockefeller has been gunning hard for a long time to get a decent mine safety bill on the floor of the Senate and on the President’s desk. Recently, in another attempt to kick the Republicans off their high horse and coax them into voting for something useful, Rockefeller attempted to get the ball rolling on a mine safety bill that had been in the works since July. Rockefeller hoped to used the process of unanimous consent, but all hope was washed away when the always charming Mike Enzi (R-WY) made his opinion clear and blocked the bill. The Party of No strikes again.

On a piece of legislation that should have been law long ago, Republicans continue to show themselves off as being a Party of No. A bill that would help many miners in the state of West Virginia, and the country, shut down. It is unfortunate. Every day this is stalled even further translates to every day being another day that Don Blankenship can exploit his workforce.

Keep fighting.

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