Don't let Massey Energy executives get away with murder

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Tell the DOJ: Hold Massey executives accountable for the Upper Big Branch coal mine tragedy.

29 miners died because Massey ignored and hid known safety hazards.
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"Please conduct a thorough criminal investigation to hold Massey executives accountable for any attempts to conceal mine safety hazards, and for their flagrant disregard for safety rules which cost the lives of 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine."

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Dear Friend,

Yesterday, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced that Massey Energy "could and should have prevented" the tragic explosion last April at their Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia that killed 29 miners.1

And even worse, Massey management may have sought to systematically conceal known mine hazards to government safety officials prior to the explosion.

MSHA reported that Massey maintained two sets of safety records. One set was used internally and contained known safety hazards and their impact on coal production. But the second "official" set, which is reviewed by mine safety inspectors — as well as miners before every shift — didn't mention many of these safety hazards.2

Failing to record known safety hazards is a potential criminal violation, and the Justice Department is engaged in ongoing investigation. If Massey officials sought to mislead officials, they must be held criminally responsible.

Tell the Justice Department: Hold Massey executives accountable for safety violations that cost lives. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

Executives at Massey Energy, which has now merged with Alpha Natural Resources, had a long history of ruthlessly prioritizing coal production over workers health and safety.

Former Massey CEO Don Blankenship famously said "a man is like a tool. If it gets bent or broken, get rid of it and get a new one." Blankenship broke the miners' union at Upper Big Branch, increased production quotas by 70% and workers shifts from eight hours to twelve.3

The MSHA found that Massey literally intimidated workers at Upper Big Branch, threatening to fire them for failing to meet production goals at any cost. In one case, a foreman was fired for delaying production for one hour to fix a ventilation problem in the mine.4 Blankenship, in a 1995 memo, instructed all miners to ignore any supervisor who asked the miners to do anything other than mine coal, including important safety work.

Additionally, Massey's failure to maintain safety equipment, including the water sprayer needed to keep flammable coal dust from igniting, was found to be one primary cause of the explosion. Massey recorded the problem with the water sprayer in their internal records, but did not disclose this fact in the records shared with MSHA.5

Overall, the stunning disregard for human life and safety by Massey executives, especially Blankenship, is indicative of the broader attitude of the coal industry — which pollutes our water, our air, and does more to catapult us toward climate change than anyone else. And in the case of the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion, it cost 29 lives, the worst mining disaster in decades.

This is an important opportunity to send a message to the coal industry higher ups, that the consequences of mine safety violations won't be limited to the miners who are put in harms way. If Massey executives broke the law in order to conceal safety hazards, they must be held criminally accountable.

Tell the Justice Department: Hold Massey executives accountable for safety violations that cost lives. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

Thank you for fighting to hold coal companies accountable.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. "Agency Blames Massey for Fatal Mine Disaster" Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2011
2. "Officials: W.Va. Mine Operator Kept Two Sets Of Safety Records" NPR, June 29, 2011
3. "Upper Big Branch mine disaster — Massey kept two sets of books" Fire Dog Lake, June 29, 2011
4. "Upper Big Branch Mine" MSHA Public Briefing, June 29, 2011
5. Ibid.


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