Washington, D.C. (5/20/10)— Today activists with the Rainforest Action Network attended the 2:00pm Massey Energy hearing before the Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) Committee. RAN activists were present to ensure that Massey’s controversial CEO, Don Blankenship, was held accountable for his role in the April 5, 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion where 29 miners tragically died. They were also calling attention to the company’s repeated mine safety and environmental violations. The activists attending the hearing held signs saying, “Coal is Dangerous” and “Massey = profit over people.” For live tweets of the hearing, follow @katerooth and @dirtyenergy.
Massey Energy Co., West Virginia’s largest coal producer and a lead company practicing the controversial mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining, has been cited for repeated mine safety violations in recent years, racking up hundreds of penalties at the Upper Big Branch alone. CEO Blankenship has gained quite a reputation for his disregard for mine safety regulations as well as his indifference to environmental protection.
“Massey has operated outside the law for far too long and must now be held accountable for these crimes against the people of Appalachia,” said Kate Rooth of the Rainforest Action Network who attended today’s hearings. “Massey is an outlaw corporation that has no concern for the people or the land of Appalachia. It is time for the company to uphold its legal and moral obligation to protect workers as well as the mountains and drinking water supplies where it operates.”
Today’s hearing is on the heels of Massey Energy’s annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday in Richmond, Va., where activists and mine workers protested the company by the hundreds. Two activists were arrested after unfurling a banner inside the shareholder meeting with the message: “Massey putting profits over people.”
As former mine worker Chuck Nelson of Glen Daniel, W.Va. said during Tuesday’s shareholder meeting: “Massey Energy is a criminal enterprise. I know from working for them that they cut every corner possible no matter who it might hurt. The subsidiary bosses answer directly to Don Blankenship so Blankenship and these lower level bosses should be held criminally accountable for the disaster at Upper Big Branch.”
Massey has a long history of environmental and social irresponsibility — including one of the largest slurry spills ever to take place in the United States, the Martin County sludge spill in KT in 2000, and a $1.5 million fine from the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The company’s mountaintop removal mines use some of the most environmentally devastating types of mining, flattening the landscape and burying miles of streams.
Called the worst of the worst coal mining, mountaintop removal coal mining results in the clear-cutting of thousands of acres of some of the world’s most biologically diverse forests, the burying of crucial headwaters streams and the contamination of groundwater with toxic levels of heavy lead and mercury. A paper released in January by a dozen leading scientists in the journal Science, concluded that mountaintop coal mining is so destructive that the government should stop giving out new permits all together. “The science is so overwhelming that the only conclusion that one can reach is that mountaintop mining needs to be stopped,” said Margaret Palmer, a professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences and the study’s lead author.