I don't know what's more galling, that Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is still employed or that he made nearly $18 million last year. If you're unfamiliar with Don Blankenship, it's likely that you're aware of some of the disasters his company is associated with — and many would say responsible for. Most recently Blankenship lost 29 miners in the worst coal mine disaster in 40 years when a blast ripped through Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine in Charleston, W.Va. His company has a rich and deep tradition of skimping on things that keep the miners safe to better increase production, and e-mails from Blankenship from 2005 told subordinates (including those at Upper Big Branch) that increasing production was the most important factor to consider in making decisions.
And Blankenship has been richly awarded — over the last two years, he's taken home $37 million in compensation.
The guy should be fired and jailed. His leadership has ripped scores of miners away from their families and devastated entire communities. His production-over-everything push has been good for Massey Energy's balance sheet, but that can protect him for only so long. Even now Massey Energy stockholders are organizing to push Blankenship out. If it's not this disaster, it will be the next, or the one after that. His policies can only kill so many miners before the bad PR finally catches up to him.
Sadly, when that day does come, Blankenship will be handed a bundle of cash and pushed out to enjoy the pile of wealth he built upon the rubble of all those mining disasters. I hope that comforts him at night. In a just world he'd spend the rest of his life in a 6' x 9' concrete cell. Sadly we all know the world is far from just.
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