Massey board again defends Don Blankenship

April 22, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.


Gazette photo by Chip Ellis

While at least one member of the Massey Energy Board of  Directors has resigned in the wake of the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, the board continues to issue statements of support for Massey CEO Don Blankenship.

Just a few minutes ago, the board issued this statement:

“The Massey Energy family continues to grieve for those lost in the awful tragedy at Upper Big Branch and remains fully committed to the safety of our members.  During times like these, a change in senior management is not appropriate or in the best interest of our members and shareholders; therefore, we want to emphasize that Don Blankenship has the full support and confidence of the Massey Energy Board of Directors,” said Admiral Bobby R. Inman, Lead Independent Director.

In a story in the Austin-American Statesman, Inman — a former Navy and CIA officer who teaches national security courses a the University of Texas — had this to say about the news media focus on Massey’s safety record:

“My anger level is pretty high for the disinformation pushed by unions,” he said. “I’m a political independent, but this is enough to make a tea partier out of me.”

The newspaper responded with an editorial that said, among other things:

The Massey mine that blew up April 5 was facing more than $150,000 in fines for safety violations stemming from more than 100 citations. Inman told the Statesman’s Asher Price that it is unions — unhappy about Massey’s non-union mines — that have stirred up trouble for the company. The board, he said, is not culpable.

Blankenship, according to Inman, “is without a question the best coal miner in the business.” That endorsement came despite the 2007 resignations of two Massey board members uncomfortable about Blankenship’s “poor risk management” and the firm’s “confrontational handling” of regulatory matters.

Those resignations came a year after a Massey mine explosion that killed two workers. The firm later paid $4.2 million in civil and criminal penalties as a result of that incident.

In 2008, Massey paid a $20-million settlement in response to Environmental Protection Agency allegations of thousands of Clean Water Act violations.

Charles Elson, a corporate governance expert at the University of Delaware, told the Statesman that boards like the one at Massey have “the responsibility to oversee the stewardship of the (environmental and safety) compliance program.”


10 Responses to “Massey board again defends Don Blankenship”

  1. clay ton says:

    Mr. Inman, re: “I’m a political independent, but this is enough to make a tea partier out of me.”

    I suggest you are a ‘tea partier’. If this is were not the case, then why have you hired the Bush Cheney hit team in Austin Texas Public Strategies to unleash what will no doubt be a campaign of lies and obfuscation.
    The extremely powerful British media combine WPP owns public Strategies, the firm hired by Massey. This firm owns ad agencies and PR firms around the world. These same forces were employed to convince people go to war in Iraq, Vietnam, etc. Ad agencies and PR firms would try and convince the public to sell their children…that’s how they make a living.
    I suggest Massey Energy under the guidance of bully Blankenship will pay $100 million to buy media instead of spending $1 million on remediation and safety upgrades.

    President of Public Strategies: Dan Bartlett, former White House counselor George W. Bush.
    V.P. Public Strategies: Mark McKinnon advisor to Republican political party. “In March 2004 alone, the Bush-Cheney campaign “paid almost $41 million… to Maverick Media Inc, a consulting firm set up by Mark McKinnon..” sourcewatch

    Again, Mr. Inman, you are not unbiased, and your thinking represents the past. You state ‘the [Massey} board is not culpable’, in the UBB explosion. Neither were any of those defendants at Nuremburg. I suggest you have been part of a criminal enterprise. You have personally benefited from the tactics of fear and alienation employed against the mining communities at the direction of Don Blankenship. You are anti-union, and the coal region that means you support slavery.

    It is time for you to put down your petard or get hoisted from it sir.
    Using your title of Admiral in relation to Massey is a smear against the good men who serve in the US Navy (my opinion).

  2. Phil Smith says:

    If Bobby Inman is a political independent then I’m a spotted purple pony. I am from Austin originally and have watched Mr. Inman for some time. He was and is a union buster and proud of it.

  3. I suggest Bobby Inman be the first to re-enter the Upper Big Branch Mine to check and see if it is safe for our miners.

  4. PR Bryant says:

    I can’t add anything else to Clay Ton’s statement. Thank you, Clay Ton!

  5. eastwood78 says:

    I served in the U.S.Navy 4 years and was proud of it. I am a veteran as many others that served their country. I always thought that when a retired serviceman regardless of rank always used the words such as retired after their name. Example: John Doe, retired Captain from the U.S. Navy.

    Anyway, I am of the opinion that Bobby Inman is anti-union, but naturally he is pro-massey, pro-blankenship.

    I agree with Betty Dotson-Lewis, but I would further suggest that not only Bobby Inman be the first to re-enter the Upper Big Branch mine, but also Blankenship and all the board members of Massey Energy, Inc. be required to re-enter it and stay until it is made safe.

    God bless all coal miners be they union or non-union, and protect them from the coal operators who do not provide for their safe return to their families.

  6. clay ton says:

    re: eastwood78
    Bobby Inman brings shame to the rank and name or the US Navy, and proudly we hail (my opinion). He uses the title Admiral as a royal robe which entitles him to lord over others (my opinion). Thanks for your service, WV and coal have a very proud and close connection with the USN.

    Check out the NY Times story published 4/22, for print 4/23
    2 Mines Show How Safety Practices Vary Widely in U.S.
    “Every single day, the levels were double or triple what they were supposed to be,” said the foreman, whose account of the shaft was corroborated in part by records collected by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. The foreman, who is now working with federal prosecutors and elected officials investigating the mine, asked not to be identified because speaking out is not acceptable in the culture of his company, Massey Energy.

  7. Mike says:

    Read the NY Times story mentioned above.

    Miners asked for a clear airshaft to the working mine. Massey response: “We dig coal, not rock.”

    A wall recently constructed to try and help with the airflow problem cut off a lifeline.

    An incorrect escape route map, a part of that route underwater — and a long stretch of lifeline missing.

    Inspections that should have taken one day took three, because inspectors spent the first day arguing with Massey operators over permission to enter.

  8. Shelby says:

    God bless the mine foreman who is willing to testify about the dangerous conditions at the UBB. May God protect him & his family from the kooks who may seek revenge. WV needs more good citizens like him

  9. boscobear says:

    Massey is a sinking ship–Don Massey will go down and hopefully take a few of his loyal followers with him.

    Notice how quiet the “Friends of Coal” have been regarding this matter. They know which way the wind in blowing!

  10. Thomas Rodd says:

    Let’s see how well Blankenship’s PR flaks can defend against this remarkable article from today’s New York Times. I about fell off my chair last night when I read it. It’s great that the Times included info on Aracoma, echoing the Gazette’s reporting last Sunday.

    Can we get this reprinted in the Gazette, Ken?

    Be sure to listen to the interview with the Massey foreman:

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