|May 18, 2010|
|Massey Energy Returns to PR Spotlight|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|British Petroleum's 11 deaths and widespread environmental destruction in the Gulf of Mexico have overshadowed the horror of Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine explosion that killed 29 workers in West Virginia last month. |
Massey CEO Don Blankenship today was the target of a spirited protest at the Richmond annual meeting of the coal company. In a grand display of corporate-speak, Blankenship said Massey is “proud of its record protecting the environment in Central Appalachia,” according to an Associated Press report.
That “record” includes the worst mining disaster in 40 years, and a history of fighting every safety violation tooth and nail.
More double-talk from the boss: “Environmental stewardship has become part of this company’s DNA.”
Since when, Don? Do you mean since the April 5 explosion? If so, that’s way too late for all involved.
Massey’s PR advisors include Public Strategies Inc., Qorvis Communications and Dix & Eaton.
Hundreds of protestors demonstrated outside the Jefferson Hotel, calling for Blankenship’s resignation or prosecution. Brass-knuckles Don says he’s going nowhere, unlike BP boss Tony Heyward, who admits his job may be jeopardy if BP doesn’t fix its mess.
If Blankenship's job is safe, it's only because of the provincials who sit on Massey's board of directors. Shame on you, lead independent director/retired admiral/National Security Agency director Bobby Inman. The trio of directors, up for election today, garnered less than 60 percent of the votes. That's hardly a ringing vote of confidence.
Blankenship wants to close the books on Upper Big Branch, saying the company has "gone well beyond what was legally required" to help the dead miners' survivors.
His PR advisors should provide Blankenship a little advice on the media relations front. Reporters were rounded-up and locked in a separate room for a feed of the meeting. Blankenship's minions pulled the plug when it came to Q&A time. Media payback is sure to come for Blankenship.
Don and his gang won't have the same level of control when he gives his initial Congressional testimony on Thursday before Iowa Senator Tom Harkin’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. Liberal Harkin is the son of a coal miner. He's going to grill Blankenship and push for ways to slash the number of appeals to federal violations (like Massey’s ) that have tied the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission in knots. Harkin has already criticized Massey, noting the Upper Big Branch mine had 76 percent more violations than the average mine did last year.
Blankenship is going to need all the PR help that he can get.
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