This Mine Explosion Brought To You By JPMorgan Chase
April 8, 2010 - 10:52am ET
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Shortly before 3 AM this morning, I watched a press conference held by Kevin Stricklin of the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Mr. Stricklin had clearly not slept in a very long time, and he announced to the watching reporters that because the explosive atmosphere at the bottom of the shaft had dropped below dangerous levels, four teams of eight rescue workers would be going down to resume their search for the four missing miners of the Upper Big Branch Mine.
The rescue workers were all equipped with about 30 lbs of oxygen and breathing apparatus to compensate for pockets of bad air. The rescue teams will be making for two safety chambers, which, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, have enough air, food and water to last four days. If any of the missing miners made it to either chamber, there's a chance they're still alive. Also from the LAT:
... The cause of the explosion is undetermined, although the mine owner, Massey Energy Co., has come under increasing fire for a spotty record of safety operations at Upper Big Branch, including 10 citations this year for inadequate ventilation of explosive gases.
The mine was cited for two safety violations on Monday, the day of the disaster. But Stricklin said he was "very confident" that the infractions played no role in causing the explosion because they occurred several miles from the blast site.
This mine has had 3,000 safety violations since 1995, 53 of them just this March. Alongside these safety violations, which were allowed to persist and recur as a pattern across Massey Energy properties because it was cheaper to risk people's lives than give them safe working conditions, have been a host of environmental violations, all financed by JPMorgan Chase:
... By underwriting MTR, JPMorgan ties itself to some of the nation's biggest polluters. Take Massey Energy, which leads the nation in MTR mining. In 2008, the company extracted more than 21 million tons of coal using mountaintop removal mining, according to opensourcecoal.org, an online database for coal production statistics. That same year, JPMorgan acted as lead manager on a $690 million bond offering by Massey, according to financial records.
Over the past decade, Massey has mined nearly 190 million tons of coal in Appalachia using mountaintop removal, according to opensourcecoal.org—and it has essentially disregarded the law and surrounding landscape to do so. Between 2000 and 2006, Massey violated the Clean Water Act more than 4,500 times by dumping sediment and leftover mining waste into rivers in Kentucky and West Virginia, the EPA said in 2008. (Environmental groups say the EPA's tally is a lowball figure; they estimate that the true number of violations is more than 12,000.) As a result of these breaches of the law, the company agreed to pay the EPA a $20 million settlement. ...
Massey Energy is a train wreck of flagrant disregard for the law, and ultimately for the well-being of either its workers or the very poor communities in which it operates. As discussed here recently, because of a threatening, 300 million gallon Massey coal slurry pond, the community of Marsh Fork is going to have to spend $8.6 million to build a new elementary school outside the spill zone, so that a breach couldn't wipe out the school--Massey Energy has chipped in $1 million, I expect they think that should end their obligation.
This criminal enterprise secured hundreds of millions in ill-spent operating funds from one of the nation's most respectable banks. JPMorgan Chase must not be bothered about it, I guess. Which is not really a surprise, thieves, they know their own.
So the people who broke the economy's job engine support the people who are breaking the planet's life support system. How charming.
Somehow, the costs just haven't been a big enough deal to call a halt to destructive and dangerous practices, though Massey CEO, Don Blankenship has been divesting himself of shares in his own company as the Appalachian coal holdings wind down. Again, these are the people who make our energy policy, but no one seems embarrassed by that.
Rescuers finally made it back into the mine again shortly before 5 AM, and have slowly been making their way down the 5 miles of tunnels between the opening and the area where they're hoping the miners might have been able to make it to safety. At a press conference held about 10:20 AM, Stricklin announced that the rescuers had already split up to move towards the different shelters, but the air had become explosive again and they're now having to come back before they can reach them. A second bore hole will have to be extended into the mine near one of the shelter areas so they can double the air flow into the mine.
This explosion, the peril the rescue teams have had to walk into, these families convulsed in grief or holding out a last, desperate hope, has been brought to you by Massey Energy, sponsored by JPMorgan Chase.
Why does the government keep taking these corporate criminals seriously? Why can their blood money still buy favors in the halls of Congress?
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