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Massey Energy Deserves to Win the Snake Oil Award

Some of my colleagues have been making the case in recent days that there were worse environmental offenders than Massey Energy in 2010. Sure, BP was responsible for the worst accidental oil spill in history. And yes, Koch Industries funds climate denial groups in an attempt to mislead the American people. But I think Massey Energy and its CEO, Don Blankenship, are the absolute worst. Between their disregard for safety and environmental standards, their denial of climate science and their destructive coal mining practices, Massey Energy and Blankenship clearly deserve your support in Repower America’s 2010 Snake Oil Awards.

This spring, an explosion killed 29 people in a West Virginia mine owned and operated by Massey Energy, in “the worst coal mining disaster in 40 years.” The Upper Big Branch mine has been cited for 1,342 safety violations since 2005. What’s more, Massey Energy was cited for not reporting over 20 accidents at that very same mine in the two years leading up to the deadly explosion, according the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship seems to have little to no regard for safety in his coal mines. In a radio interview, he said: “Violations are unfortunately a normal part of the mining process.” ABC News spoke with a miner who worked for Massey Energy who states that working for Blankenship was “like living under a hammer. It’s all about the bottom line, we all know that.”

The fatal disaster at the Upper Big Branch mine is awful enough itself, but Massey Energy’s disregard for safety violations is just sickening. Blankenship clearly has his priorities out of order. In a 2005 memo, he wrote, “If any of you have been asked by your group presidents, your supervisors, engineers or anyone else to do anything other than run coal … you need to ignore them and run coal.” In addition, Blankenship has been an outspoken critic of the science behind climate change, calling those pushing for new climate change laws “greeniacs” and “all crazy.”

While the Upper Big Branch explosion has brought Massey Energy’s neglect of mining safety into the spotlight, it’s important that we keep them there. Vote Massey Energy for Repower America’s Snake Oil Award, and let’s send them a message that their dirty coal does not rank above human lives and our environment.

[Ed. note: Kate Bechtold is New Media Intern with Repower America where you can find more of her blogging.]

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Kay Bechtold

Kay Bechtold