You are herePittsburgh Tribune-Review: Massey execs called killers

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Massey execs called killers

May 19, 2010- RICHMOND, Va. -- Chanting protesters surrounded the historic Jefferson Hotel on Tuesday morning, demanding the criminal prosecution of Massey Energy Co. board members and CEO Don Blankenship.

Six weeks after an explosion inside the Massey-owned Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va., killed 29 men and injured two -- making it the deadliest U.S. mine disaster in 40 years -- company shareholders met for their annual meeting in a ballroom inside the hotel.

Outside, protesters wore orange prison jumpsuits with Blankenship's name printed on the back. Others held signs accusing Massey of manslaughter.

"Fines are not enough," said Kevin Zeese, executive director for the Campaign for Fresh Air & Clean Politics in Maryland. "We need to prosecute the leaders of this company. Blankenship is the main target. He's got to be stopped from killing again."

Zeese and others in the crowd of more than 1,000 protesters said Massey officials must be held accountable for an industry-leading 52 deaths during the past 10 years.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Charleston, W.Va., said Friday it is investigating Massey subsidiary Performance Coal Co., the company operating Upper Big Branch, for "willful criminal activity."

Inside the ballroom, shareholders re-elected three board members.

Baxter Phillips, Richard Gabrys and Dan Moore, who each served on Massey's safety committee, will keep their seats on the Richmond-based company's board. Shareholders approved proposals requiring directors to win a majority of votes and requiring the full board to be elected annually.

Blankenship defended the company's safety record.

"We reject all accusations that this company is indifferent to safety," Blankenship told shareholders. "Last year, the Mine Safety and Health Administration thought so much of our workplace safety record that it awarded Massey three of its prestigious Sentinels of Safety awards."

The start of the meeting was broadcast live on the Web. The feed was cut when board members opened the floor to questions.

Blankenship and other board members did not address the media. They left the hotel through a back door, away from protesters, after the 90-minute meeting.



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