While I was busy on Friday evening scrambling to read more of the MSHA internal audits that Joe Main dumped on us late in the day (see our print story from today’s paper for details), NPR’s Howard Berkes was putting together a piece about the Massey Energy officials who are apparently moving into important positions with the combined Massey-Alpha Natural Resources Company.
A top Massey Energy executive who presided over the company while it compiled some of the most criticized safety records in the coal mining industry will jointly manage the main safety program at Alpha Natural Resources if the two companies merge as expected.
Massey Chief Operating Officer Chris Adkins will “spearhead the implementation” of Alpha’s main safety program, which the company refers to as “Running Right.” Adkins will share that role with an existing Alpha executive.
“I cannot think of two better individuals to lead this effort,” Alpha CEO Kevin Crutchfield said in a letter to Massey and Alpha employees.
… Adkins was COO at Massey during 2009, for example, when four of the company’s coal mines had injury rates more than double the national average and 10 had higher-than-average rates of injury, according to an NPR analysis of federal records.
Safety violations were so persistent and dangerous at Massey’s Freedom No. 1 mine in Pike County, Ky., that the Labor Department sought an unprecedented federal court injunction last November that would have placed the mine under a federal judge’s supervision.
Freedom “has a high risk level for a fatal accident … on any given day,” MSHA official James Poynter wrote in a court document. Massey decided to close the mine and settle the case before an injunction could be issued.
The president of the Massey subsidiary that managed Freedom will become president of a new Alpha division of mining companies if stockholders approve the Massey merger. Charlie Bearse will head up Alpha’s Coal River East group of mines in West Virginia, which includes Upper Big Branch and other Massey mines.
Alpha officials had this to say in Howard’s story:
“We spent a lot of time ensuring that these people would be a good match with our ethics,” says Ted Pile, a spokesman for Alpha. “We have confidence in them that they have a desire to run right.”
Pile also notes that Alpha’s existing executive team has the ultimate responsibility for safety after the merger and will make sure that the new team will “graft ‘Running Right’ onto Massey.”
“It’ll be a ‘show-me’ story,” he adds.