Coal Tattoo

Alpha Natural Resources spokesman Ted Pile just confirmed for me what was first reported by Howard Berkes over at NPR:

Massey Energy executive Chris Adkins (above) will not be part of the executive team at Alpha Natural Resources following today’s merger of the two coal companies.

As Howard explains:

Adkins was Chief Operating Officer at Massey and Alpha announced last month that Adkins would be jointly responsible for implementing Alpha’s “Running Right” safety program after the merger … Adkins presided over Massey when the company had a corporate safety “culture in which wrongdoing became acceptable, where deviation became the norm,” according investigators.

As Howard reports:

In an interview with NPR, Alpha CEO Kevin Crutchfield said, “Chris [Adkins] will not be joining Alpha. I’m not going to say anything more about it.”

Crutchfield declined to say whether Adkins decided not to take the position or whether the job offer was withdrawn.

Interestingly, during a hearing today before Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles King, Massey lawyer Al Emch sought to keep confidential the transcript of a deposition Adkins gave in shareholder lawsuits against Massey management. Emch said that Adkins only agreed to the deposition after being assured it would remain confidential.

That transcript is among the documents that Judge King wants to more closely examine before he rules on whether it would be made public.

We already know, though — based on documents unsealed yesterday by the West Virginia Supreme Court — that Adkins asserted his 5th Amendment right and refused to answer more than 50 questions during that deposition.  Adkins declined to describe his basic job responsibilities or to define the term “running coal,” for example. We also know that Adkins refused to answer any questions from government investigators looking into the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster.

Alpha CEO Crutchfield did not take any questions during a media event today, and he’s so far declined requests from the Gazette for an interview. But along with his NPR interview, Crutchfield did talk today with the Wall Street Journal’s Kris Maher, and addressed some issues about safety:

Alpha also will have to deal with fallout from last year’s explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va.. The April accident, in which 29 miners were killed, was the worst U.S. coal-mining accident in 40 years.

“Goal number one will be to understand what happened in the accident,” Mr. Crutchfield said. He said he hasn’t fully read a report issued in May by an independent investigator that placed most of the blame for the accident on safety failings of Massey.

Mr. Crutchfield said the company is focused on improving safety and environmental compliance of the new company—two issues for which Massey was criticized—especially after the accident. Alpha has 600 training sessions scheduled over the next several months.

He said he expected “some relief” from the stiffer regulatory oversight of Massey’s mines in recent months. “I don’t profess that Alpha is perfect. I think we’ve been pretty responsible overall. That will be the culture of the combined company as we go ahead,” he said.

Alpha will inherit 13 lawsuits filed by families of deceased miners. Mr. Crutchfield declined to discuss whether the company will continue $3 million settlement offers that Massey made to families to settle wrongful death claims related to the accident. “It was a tragic occurrence. Clearly the families are in pain, and we would certainly like to have a discussion with them at the appropriate time,” he said.

UPDATED: I’ve posted a copy here of an email that was just unsealed by Judge King, that describes the discussions between Massey and Alpha about retaining Adkins and some other Massey officials.