Massey CEO to Testify Before Senate May 20

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Friday, May 14, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Don Blankenship, the pugnacious head of Massey Energy, will appear before the Senate Labor Committee Appropriations Sub-committee on Labor next Thursday, the committee just announced. He’ll be sitting on a two-man panel that will also include a long-time nemesis, Cecil Roberts, head of the United Mine Workers for America.

Testifying on a separate panel will be: Joseph Main, head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration; Patricia Smith, Solicitor of Labor;  John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; and Mary Lu Jordan, head of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission.

The hearing will be the second in the Senate has staged to examine mine safety following last month’s deadly blast in Southern West Virginia. Blankenship — indeed, no one from Massey — was invited to attend the first, which was held in the Senate HELP Committee.

In a statement, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Labor Committee, said he’s eying legislation to bolster the country’s mine safety rules following last month’s deadly explosion in Montcoal, W.Va.

I am examining possible legislation that would make a number of policy changes in the area of mine safety.  But additional Federal appropriations are also needed to help prevent similar disasters, particularly when it comes to reducing the backlog of appeals at the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) also weighed in Friday, calling next week’s hearing “a good beginning to a process that I hope will lead to substantial and long-overdue changes.”

We must examine the level of resources allocated to our mine regulatory agencies to ensure that, in this day and age, tragedies like the one at Upper Big Branch mine are prevented in the future.

But the focus of the gathering will be Blankenship, who’s been unapologetic about his handling of Massey, even in the face of report after report indicating that the company’s safety record is the worst in the business.

Let the games begin.

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