Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mine explosion at Montcoal - a safely repeatable tragedy


This is a terrible tragedy.  And it will happen again.  And again. 

And no one will be held accountable.  We read in story after story, the same line - "Massey Energy ... ranks among the industry's most profitable.  It also has a spotty safety record." 

That safety record earned it a whopping $382,000 in fines last year.  Gee I wonder if that even shows up on the financials of a company that takes in $2.5 billion in revenue per year.  Ahem, $2,500,000,000 > $382,000.  Shit.  The CEO could have paid that fine with the change that fell out of this pocket on payday ($11 million for Mr. Blankenship last year).

No one will be held accountable.  Nothing will change.  Oh, perhaps the company will be fined again, even sued, but I bet if we watch the stock price... nothing will change.

My thoughts are to massively increase fines for safety violations and to consider Sarbanes-Oxley type criminal penalties for management in cases where an accident is linked to safety violations.  Because that's the only thing that's going to make Mr. Blankenship, et al, give a damn.  Further, the annual report to shareholders should be required to have a description of the independent safety inspections performed (including context so the reader can understand the extent to which company operations were examined), any findings, and any fines.  I think this should be on page 2 (we'll let them keep the CEO's letter on page 1).