25 Miners Are Dead In West Virginia Because Rich Wingnut Mine Owner Only Abides By Laws He Approves Of
How many must die before the government protects us from predators like Blankenship?
A few days ago we introduced you to an especially unsavory character, multimillionaire robber baron, Republican campaign donor, union-buster, climate change denier and US Chamber board member, Don Blankenship. He still hasn't been arrested. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis doesn't look like she wants to let the tragic mine disaster at Blankenship's shoddily-run mine get swept under the rug. Obama has asked her and Mine Safety and Health Administrator Joe Main "to report on their early assessment of the deadly explosion’s cause, the safety record at the Upper Branch mine, and the steps that the Federal government should take to improve safety enforcement and prevent future tragedies."
Yesterday Think Progress an early assessment from Blankenship himself, an interview he gave almost exactly one year ago:
They’re very difficult to comply with. There’s so many of the laws that are, if you will, nonsensical from an engineering or a coal mining viewpoint. A lot of the politicians, they get emotional, as does the public, about the most recent accident, and it’s easy to get laws on the books that are not truly helping the health or safety of coal miners. I think we need to be very pragmatic and very careful when we’re passing laws of that nature to make sure that we create as much safety and as much health as can be created for each of the resources we expend.
Blankenship has spent a small fortune trying to elect right-wing Republicans who would let him get away with-- literally-- murder. Even the U.S. Supreme Court has been concerned that he's bought too much influence power for himself in West Virginia.
As detailed in an ABC News investigation, Blankenship vacationed on the Riviera with one West Virginia Supreme Court Justice and underwrote an ad campaign supporting the election of another while a $50 million judgment against Massey Energy was before the court. Blankenship's apparently successful multi-million-dollar attempt to change the composition of the court became the basis of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision-- and the source of a slew of controversial television ads... Blankenship... spent millions more of his own cash trying to oust Democrats from the state legislature.
West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller called Massey Energy and it's CEO Don Blankenship "rogue" and is clear that "Massey is not doing its job when it comes to the safety of its miners."
"I think there's a growing feeling that there are a lot of coal companies that do a good job and then there are others that are outliers or rogues. They try to do as little as they can and I think there's a growing anger on my part, and the part of the people who work in those mines, that this distinction has to be closed."
Just last month, federal inspectors cited Massey Energy for high levels of methane and coal dust as well as a ventilation system that wasn't working properly at the UBB Mine.
Senator Rockefeller says Massey mines have a long history of violations, but never seem to pay the penalties.
"Mr. Blankenship, who's the head of Massey, said that every mine violation is somehow an improvement in safety. I've been pondering that for several days now and haven't been able to make any sense out of that. He's had a lot of fines. He hasn't had to pay those fines because of loopholes in the laws."
Meanwhile, Democrats will try again to rein in serial criminals like Blankenship, although until a CEO like him is dragged before a judge and jury, tried, convicted and made to suffer the consequences for multiple homicides, this kind of corporate exploitation and criminality will never end. This is nothing but bullshit game-playing to distract from the real issues and from the complicity of the ruling elites in this tragedy:
Democrats in Congress are trying to crack down on litigation by mining companies that kept federal safety officials at arm’s length from the Upper Big Branch mine... Massey Energy, the company that operates Upper Big Branch, was able to keep the Mine Safety and Health Administration at bay by regularly appealing safety violations.
Since 2005, Massey has gone to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission 89 times to dispute safety violations that federal inspectors found at Upper Big Branch, according to an official at the commission.
The litigation stalled many of the findings of safety violations and prevented the Mine Safety and Health Commission from finding a “pattern of violation” that would have enabled them to exercise more oversight... Obama administration officials and Democratic lawmakers have tried since last year to eliminate the backlog of cases at the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, but experts estimate even the newest proposals could fall short.
We don't need a commission and we don't need a congressional investigation. We need a judge-- one who hasn't be paid for by Blankenship-- a jury and an electric chair... or whatever West Virginia uses to eliminate mass murderers. Perhaps Secretary Solis should show President Obama and Senator Rockefeller this video: