Coal Tattoo

The Charleston Gazette and NPR are continuing their legal effort to make public records concerning the expected merger of Alpha Natural Resources and Massey Energy.

Late yesterday afternoon, lawyers for the Gazette and NPR filed this motion with Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles King, in anticipation of a hearing at 1:30 p.m. today regarding the status of documents in the Alpha-Massey case pending in his courtroom. NPR and the Gazette had a minor victory at the state Supreme Court, when justices unsealed the petition and response brief filed there regarding this same case.

The new Gazette-NPR brief says:

It is unsurprising the parties to this case ‘endorse’ the secrecy orders; they likely would prefer to avoid any public scrutiny. Yet this court is not obligated to pander to parties’ desires to hide from public scrutiny. Massey Energy and its related entities form one of the largest employers in this state. As such, Massey’s conduct, the sale or potential sale of the company, the required public disclosure of relevant information concerning the value of the company to shareholders so they can make informed decisions, and the actions of the parties in this case is of great interest and concern both to the citizens of West Virginia, and nationally as well.

In addition, there is greater cause for public scrutiny of the filings in this matter in light of the April 5, 2010, explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine. The suspicious circumstances surrounding that tragedy has resulted in numerous lawsuits, including the recently-filed suit alleging that the sale of massey to Alpha will harm the ability of victims and their families to recover damages. The filings in this case likely will shed new light on Massey’s acts and or omissions in relation to this tragedy.