For at least six of the past 10 years, federal records indicate, the Upper Big Branch mine has recorded an injury rate worse than the national average for similar operations. The records also show that the mine had 458 violations in 2009, with a total of $897,325 in safety penalties assessed against it last year. It has paid $168,393 in safety penalties.
“Massey’s commitment to safety has long been questioned in the coalfields,” said Tony Oppegard, a lawyer and mine safety advocate from Kentucky.
Those concerns were heightened in 2006 when an internal memo written by Mr. Blankenship became public. In the memo, Mr. Blankenship instructed the company’s underground mine superintendents to place coal production first.
Coal is indeed not “cheap energy.”