Don Blankenship, the CEO of the massive West Virginia coal company Massey Energy, announced Friday that he would be leaving his post of almost thirty years.
Blankenship has been the face of Big Coal in the Appalachian, a country that has seen huge tracts of land purchased and destroyed by mountain top removal mining in search of dwindling coal seams.
In April, 29 workers will killed in an explosion of a Massey Energy mine in West Virginia. Blankenship has been under increased pressure since the event, which was tied to blatent and repeated safety violations by the company.
End of An Error
Earlier this year, the Media Consortium collected a few sordid highlights from Blankenship’s career as head of Massey Energy:
Massey’s owner, Don Blankenship, has as dark a record as his company on environmental issues. Blankenship believes in the “survival of the most productive,” Mike Lillis writes at The Washington Independent, which means that safety and environmental concerns come second.
The Colorado Independent’s David O. Williams calls Blankenship ”a notorious right-wing climate change denier and outspoken critic of the policies of ‘Obama bin Laden,’” and notes that Blankenship is on the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has tried its hardest to squelch any climate legislation eking through Congress.
The New York Times reports that Blankenship will be succeeded by Baxter F. Phillips Jr., president of Massey, as chief executive and by retired Adm. Bobby Inman, a former senior Central Intelligence Agency official and the lead independent director on the Massey board, as nonexecutive chairman.
Cloudy Future For King Coal
It’s yet to be determined what effect Blankenship’s retirement, effective December 31st, will have on the company, and whether Massey will maintain it’s legendary support of mountain top removal mining.
Although Blankenship simply announced that it was time for him to move on, there are suspicions that he and the Massey Board had clashed over the possibility of selling the company.
Badge Humphries, a South Carolina lawyer told NPR that the news was “a huge victory” for what he and several shareholder groups that he represents have been trying to accomplish in a lawsuit against Blankenship and the rest of the Massey board.
The lawsuit alleges that Blankenship and the Massey board devalued the company’s shares by allegedly failing to operate its mines safely and in violation of a settlement of an earlier lawsuit, according to NPR.
Image Credit: John Cole copyright 2010 Cagle Cartoons via The Week
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