Massey Energy "profoundly reckless" in mine disaster; Tea Party as useful idiots; Soros, U.S. Chamber

In April 2010, an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia claimed 40 lives. An independent investigation initiated by that state has found that the mine's operator - Massey Energy - was to blame for the tragedy and was "profoundly reckless" [1] [2].

There are also major political components to the tragedy:

1. Massey - led by their former CEO Don Blankenship - played a major role in West Virginia politics [3].

2. In September 2009, Massey sponsored the ""Friends of America Rally" which featured Ted Nugent, Hank Williams Jr, and Sean Hannity. The site is no longer available, but an archive of their main page is here and a copy of the sponsors page here. While it only appears to have been referred to by that name and not a "Labor Day Tea Party" as some would have it [4], it was a tea party in all but name. This illustrates for about the millionth time that those in the tea parties movement are useful idiots: villains like Don Blankenship hide behind red white and blue banners in order to push a money-making agenda. See some of the responses here. The teaparty mind (such as it is) is unable and unwilling to realize that perhaps *both* the Nancy Pelosi types *and* the Don Blankenship types aren't on their side. Those like Blankenship are consistently able to pull the wool over their eyes, presenting themselves as the only thing standing between Pelosi, Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and WORLD COMMUNISM. Nuanced, balanced thinking is not an option for teapartiers. (If you're in the teaparty movement and the foregoing isn't clear, don't just engage in the Jump, Smear, and Lie technique like you want to do (or have been trained to do). Instead, control yourself and start at Glenn Beck encouraging his fans to donate to the illegal immigration-supporting U.S. Chamber of Commerce and then work your way up.)

4. Speaking of the US Chamber of Commerce, Blankenship formerly served on their board until either his term was up or he was pushed out for being a liability. And, unlike others, he's been disappeared from the Chamber's website [5].

5. Never fear: Massey Energy has been sold to Alpha Natural Resources, which might clean up their practices. Except - unbelievably - Alpha is retaining some Massey executives, including Massey's COO as the head of Alpha's main safety program [6]. And, on a note which may or may not be ironic, George Soros has or had a nearly $5 million stake in Alpha [7]. He increased his stake in Massey Energy to nearly $60 million in the second quarter of 2010 [8]; what if any stake he had in them before the tragedy isn't known. And, the report at [2] is from Pro Publica, a group funded in part by Soros.


[1] From this:

Massey Energy Co. (MEE) is to blame for the fatal explosion at its Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia last year, the deadliest U.S. mining disaster in 40 years, an investigator for the state said.

“A company that was a towering presence in the Appalachian coalfields operated its mines in a profoundly reckless manner, and 29 coal miners paid with their lives for the corporate risk- taking,” according to a report released today. “The company broke faith with its workers by frequently and knowingly violating the law and blatantly disregarding known safety practices.”

The report by former federal mine administrator J. Davitt McAteer, named in 2010 by West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin to examine the blast, is among three government investigations of the disaster. Federal and state mining agencies have yet to issue reports...

...McAteer’s investigation found that the disaster was man- made and preventable had Massey followed “basic, well-tested” safety procedures. The report cited failures to maintain a functioning ventilation system, comply with federal and state rock-dusting standards and properly maintain the safety features on mine machinery.

..."Our experts continue to study the UBB explosion and our goal is to find answers and technologies that ultimately make mining safer," [Massey General Counsel Shane Harvey] said in an e-mail...

[2] From ProPublica (link):

The report, which was commissioned by West Virginia's former governor, noted that 18 current and former executives invoked their Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination and refused to cooperate with investigators...

...“It is only in the context of a culture bent on production at the expense of safety that these obvious deviations from decades of known safety practices make sense,” the report said. It also noted that the company’s practices haven’t improved much—if at all—since the disaster occurred.

“More than a year after 29 men died in the Upper Big Branch mine, there is strong evidence that Massey has not changed the manner in which it operates its mines,” the report said.

[3] ibid:

Investigators said the coal giant had “used the leverage of jobs it provided to attempt to control West Virginia’s political system,” casting inspectors, regulators, and even politicians and community residents as enemies. According to the report, the company’s former CEO, Don Blankenship instilled fear in local politicians by spending “vast amounts of money to influence elections.”

[4] crooksandliars . com/karoli/
Mining that for facts is left as an exercise; note that I've been banned from Crooks and Liars.

[5] From July 14, 2010, workinprogress.firedoglake . com/2010/07/14/

As recently as June 29, Massey was listed as a member of the Chamber’s Board. But now, his name doesn’t appear on the list of current board members, and his specific profile page has been deleted from the website.

"June 29" is a link to Google's cache, and his former page is at The Chamber tells them that Blankenship had simply served three two-year terms, which they claim is the limit under their by-laws. That doesn't explain why they'd delete his profile page.

Note that his profile page now resolves to The page still exists and is for Mary Birch, who apparently used to serve on their board. Likewise with for James Berges. It appears that Blankenship has been sent down the memory hole.

[6] From this:

The miners' union blasted coal company Alpha Natural Resources (ANR.N) for giving senior management positions to executives of Massey Energy (MEE.N) when Alpha takes over the company blamed for the worst U.S. mine disaster in 40 years.

"The wisdom of putting these people into critical slots in Alpha must be called into serious question," United Mine Workers of America (UMW) International President Cecil Roberts said in a statement on Friday...

...[Roberts] singled out Chris Adkins, Massey's Chief Operating Officer, noting he was in charge when two miners died in a previous mine fire and that he had not testified at the Upper Big Branch investigation.

"Yet Chris Adkins is slated to be one of the people who Alpha said will 'spearhead the implementation,' of its safety program. That's frankly incomprehensible to me. Chris Adkins doesn't belong in Alpha's executive offices."

[7] From this:

Soros Fund Management LLC reported owning 82,800 Alpha shares, valued at about $4.9 million, as of March 31, up from 5,500 shares as of Dec. 31, 2010.

[8] From this:

Soros Fund Management LLC, which oversees $25 billion, purchased 1.7 million shares of Massey during the [second quarter of 2010], according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday. The New York-based fund’s position was valued at $59.4 million at the end of June.