Mountaintop removal and Massey Energy drawing much heat these days. A Massey board member resigned last week over it. The president of Ohio State University no less.
OSU president resigns from Massey under pressure
By JULIE CARR SMYTH – 3 days ago
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee will step down from the board of coal mining giant Massey Energy under pressure from environmental groups.
In a statement Friday, Richmond, Va.-based Massey said Gee will leave the board on July 1 after nine years. Gee, 65, was re-elected to his post at the company’s shareholder’s meeting May 19.
Pressure from activist groups had intensified ahead of that meeting. Critics said Gee’s presence on the board was a show of support for some practices that have come under fire, such as mountaintop mining.
Gee has been an influential voice in the national push for green energy jobs and has said he could do more good on the board at Massey than he could from outside the company.
Pressure to limit carbon emissions, blamed for climate change, is growing in Washington and coal companies are one of the biggest targets under the new administration.
In a letter to Massey Chief Executive Officer Don Blankenship, Gee said he wanted to devote more attention to the university. Gee returned in July 2007 to the helm of Ohio State, where he is the highest paid university president in the nation.
“My service on the Massey Board has provided me with a unique perspective to learn the problems and opportunities facing the nation’s energy sector,” Gee wrote.
Gee said through the university press office that he would have no further comment.
Blankenship said Massey’s board is made up of a cross-section of interests and expertise, and Gee brought an important perspective.
“Coal is an essential, abundant American resource that keeps the national power grid humming,” he said in a statement. “We will certainly miss Gordon, who was a dynamic force in the free and open debate at our board meetings.”
The resignation drew immediate praise from some of Gee’s harshest critics.
“Dr. Gee’s public relations nightmare is over,” said Sandy Buchanan, executive director of Ohio Citizen Action. “He can now become an effective advocate for clean energy sources.”
The group shadowed Gee at public appearances for months, where volunteers handed out thousands of leaflets. It also orchestrated letter-writing campaigns and petition drives.
Brian Rothenberg, executive director of ProgressOhio, said Gee sent the right message by stepping down.
“If there is a lesson in this, it is that university presidents should not let their names and the legitimacy of their titles be co-opted by bad corporate actors who seek to use academics to legitimize poor behavior,” his statement said.
The Associated Press first reported Gee’s ties to Massey after he was named co-chairman of a national effort by public universities to use their research to promote America’s energy independence.
Company filings show that Gee made more than $219,000 in cash and stock from Massey last year. He earned about $1.3 million from OSU last year, including salary, benefits and bonuses.
In all, he held 28,191 shares of Massey stock as of March 20, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.