Coal Industry Has Wounded Itself Much Worse Than Obama’s Policies Ever Could – by Ken Silverstein (Forbes Magazine – October 23, 2015)

With America’s most notorious coal boss standing trial on conspiracy and securities fraud charges, the industry should be asking itself just who is to blame for its woes. The overlooked irony of this federal case is that the sector should be looking closely at itself, and undergoing a thorough self-evaluation.

The coal industry, however, will continue to blame President Obama and his “radical” Environmental Protection Agency that has sought to ensure a cleaner environment while also using the public levers to advance green energies. What it refuses to acknowledge, though, is its own role — that its own strong-armed tactics have worked to oust it from America’s energy throne. And no individual personifies that trait more than the man on trial: Don Blankenship, former chief executive of Massey Energy.

Prosecutors are still making their case, all before the defense gets a chance to present their evidence. And Mr. Blankenship is presumed innocent unless proven otherwise. He is charged with conspiring to evade workplace safety laws, which subsequently led to an April 2010 mine explosion outside Beckley, W.V. that killed 29 miners. The government is also alleging he filed false information with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“There was an element of fear, intimidation and propaganda working there,” testified Stanley Stewart, who at one point broke down in tears telling jurors that real people — his friends — had become entrapped in an underground tomb. “We knew if we didn’t (‘produce coal at any cost,’) we would be fired, or they would harass you until you quit.”

He proceeded to say that the mine conditions were unbearable and that the air was often so bad, it was hard to breath. And when such complaints were registered with the immediate supervisor, Stewart and the other miners would get looks of sympathy — but knew that the corporate culture placed production ahead of safety.

People went to so far, he continued, as to falsify records to fool the mine inspectors and to satisfy the higher-ups.

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