For Immediate Release
As Blankenship Resigns, Public Citizen Calls on New Massey CEO to Improve Workplace Safety Standards
Statement of David Arkush, Director, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division
WASHINGTON - Public Citizen welcomes the announcement that the CEO of Massey
Energy, Don Blankenship, will retire at the end of this month. Although
his leadership of the company was disastrous in numerous ways — from
environmental catastrophes to record fines to extreme hostility to
unions — he will be remembered for presiding over the worst mine
disaster in decades.
The explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in April killed 29 workers
and painfully demonstrated the need for better enforcement of mine
safety laws. Blankenship refused to learn any lessons from this
disaster, instead continuing to aggressively push for increased
production over worker health and safety.
Blankenship’s tenure as CEO has been criticized by Massey
shareholders and directors. Prior to the Upper Big Branch disaster,
shareholders had complained that Massey’s board of directors was unable
to exercise control or oversight of Blankenship. After the explosion,
shareholders wrote that the disaster was “the tragic consequence of the
board’s failure to challenge [Blankenship’s] confrontational approach to
In 2007, two members of Massey’s board of directors resigned, charging
that Blankenship’s “confrontational handling of environmental and
regulatory matters” had hurt the company’s reputation and created a
“‘Blankenship Discount’ in the market price for Massey’s shares,” as
quoted in the resignation letters of Daniel S. Loeb and Todd Q. Swanson.
After the Upper Big Branch disaster, Public Citizen launched a
petition and website chronicling Blankenship’s and Massey’s actions and
calling for Blankenship’s ouster. The petition garnered more than 6,200
signatures. We are pleased that Massey will begin the new year with new
leadership and hope that the new CEO will seek to improve the company’s
safety, environmental and labor practices. We will continue to monitor
Massey to see if this happens.
Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.