Mitt Romney, Murray Energy and coal criminals

July 18, 2012 by Ken Ward Jr.

We’ve written before here on Coal Tattoo about the fact that renegade coal operator Bob Murray played a major role recently in a campaign fundraiser in Wheeling, W.Va., for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.  Readers of this blog know well the record of Mr. Murray’s company at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah, and may recall that one of Murray’s subsidiaries pleaded guilty to criminal mine safety violations related to the August 2007 disaster that killed six miners and three rescue workers.

What you may not have heard — and certainly won’t see reported by the media outlets that constantly promote the notion of a “war on coal” by the Obama administration — is that another of Murray’s subsidiaries recently pleaded guilty to criminal Clean Water Act violations at one of its operations in Ohio. Here’s what The Associated Press reported last week:

An Ohio company pleaded guilty Friday to criminal violations of the federal Clean Water Act involving coal-wastewater spills into a southeast Ohio stream — spills that could cost the company more than $7 million.

The Ohio Valley Coal Company pleaded guilty to the two misdemeanor violations in U.S. District Court in Columbus in a plea agreement with federal prosecutors. The judge will review the agreement before deciding whether to approve it and the pleas, court officials said.

The agreement involved spills of wastewater into Captina Creek in Belmont County in 2008 and 2010. The 2010 spill of coal-wastewater, or slurry, killed more than 4,000 fish and animals.

In addition to pleading to violating a federal water pollution permit, the company also will pay more than $1 million in federal and state fines and restitution under the agreement. As part of the agreement, the company already has installed a $6 million double-walled slurry pipeline.

 The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Ohio Valley in 2008 “negligently” failed to sample and monitor the flow of pollutants discharged from a holding pond at its Powhatan Mine No. 6 and the illegal discharge of coal slurry turned the creek black for 22 miles downstream.

The 2010 pipeline rupture at a coal preparation plant in Beallsville that spilled thousands of gallons of slurry into the stream violated the company’s wastewater discharge permit, prosecutors said.

Ohio Valley will pay a $500,000 fine to the federal government, $455,000 in fines and restitution to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and $95,000 in fines and restitution to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, if the judge approves the agreement.

Captina Creek, considered to be one of the highest quality streams in the state, is one of the only Ohio locations where the state endangered and federally threatened Hellbender salamander is actively breeding, according to the Ohio EPA.

Interestingly, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Columbus successfully prosecuted two top Ohio Valley Coal mine managers — Donald Meadows and David Bartsch — for their roles in these crimes. Both were sentenced to probation and community service.

The Ohio Environmental Law Center had this to say on its blog about the Murray plea agreement:

The coal industry keeps telling us that today’s coal is clean.  This guilty plea is prima facie evidence that coal is not, nor ever can be clean. We need to loosen coal’s stranglehold on our watersheds and on our coalfield communities. The industry and its regulators at ODNR and Ohio EPA need to find alternatives to disposing of coal waste in our most healthy watersheds, and the Administration has to continue and increase its support for energy efficiency, co-generation, and renewable energy.

The question for Governor Romney, of course, is whether he thinks criminal behavior by coal companies, especially when it kills workers and damages the environment, is acceptable. If not, why is he buddies with Bob Murray?

7 Responses to “Mitt Romney, Murray Energy and coal criminals”

  1. Observer says:

    Does Murray and Romney = Obama and Solyndra?

  2. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    Kindly point me to a link that details criminal convictions of anyone related to Solyndra … especially for charges related to 9 deaths of workers … Otherwise, the answer to your question is no …


  3. Armored Face Conveyor says:

    Mr. Ward,
    Perhaps I am cynical, but anymore I’m not sure money needs provenance. Romney associating with Murray may not be politically astute but very few politicians will turn down cash. I believe the Gazette still accepted ads from Massey Energy even while editorially opposed to them. Also not sure I follow the logic in OLEC’s statement. How does one operator not following the law prove that coal can’t be clean?

  4. Dell Spade says:

    Buddies? Do they bowl together or are you just trying to push an agenda?

  5. rhmooney3 says:

    Not reported is that the two-mile slurry pipeline which caused this spillage was illegally built without a permit — the Ohio state inspector some how missed seeing its construction during his inspections — then added the already constructed pipeline as an incidental boundary revision (that was done in days) instead of as a permit amendment (which would have taken months and included public comment).

    The OSM Columbus Field Office shut both eyes on this being done.

    There is a lot of back story in this matter.

  6. Bob Kincaid says:

    Dell, is that some sort of official definition of “buddies,” being in a bowling league? While I won’t speak for you, “buddies” to me is much more applicable to someone who gives you vast sums of money and shares your ideological viewpoint.

    Then again, I’ve never been in a bowling league, so I could be wrong about the intimate level of that relationship.

    Or are you just trying to push an agenda?

  7. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    I guess I’ll answer your question(s) with a question —

    Were the actions of Murray Energy in these instances appropriate? Will anyone from the coal industry stand up and say criminal violations of safety and environmental protections are wrong?