Massey Energy

Massey Energy Company is a large coal producer in the United States with substantial operations in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia. By revenue, it is the fourth largest producer of coal in the United States , its mines yielding around 40 million tons annually. The company controls 2.2 billion tons of coal reserves in southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, southwest Virginia and Tennessee or about a third of all Central Appalachian reserves. It currently employs about 5,000 people and operates 34 underground mines and 15 surface mines.

The company is headed by Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer Don Blankenship.

In January 2008, the US Justice Department ordered Massey to pay fines totaling 30 million dollars as part of an agreement resulting from a May 2007 complaint filed by the EPA.


In 1920, A.T. Massey incorporated in Richmond, Virginia to broker coal sales. Twenty years later, Massey's operations expanded to include coal mining and processing. The company changed ownership several times. In 1974, St. Joe Minerals purchased a majority interest in the company. In 1981, that parent company was acquired by Fluor Corporation. A.T. Massey was wholly owned by Fluor Corporation from 1987 until 2000, when the unit was spun off and eventually renamed Massey Energy Company.


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Corporate governance

In 2004, Blankenship spent $3.5 million in a bitter campaign to back Brent Benjamin, a controversial nominee to the West Virginia Supreme Court. Blankenship has vowed to endorse at least one more judge to replace justice Warren McGraw who ruled against his company's plans to conduct mountaintop removal mining .

Blankenship's critics accuse him of buying the court seat to secure favorable decisions in cases involving him and his company. In 2005, he advertised heavily to defeat a bond issue in support of an underfunded state employee pension plan. He opposed the reduction of the state sales tax on food from 6 to 5%, instead campaigning for its complete removal. His total personal political spending in 2004 and 2005 was $6 million (Solomon, 2006).

Massey Energy figures, including Don Blankenship of Massey Energy and James "Buck" Harless (a former member of the Board of Massey Energy and an energy policy adviser during the White House transition), have been active in West Virginia politics, including party financing.

Labor relations

By December 31, 2004, the UMWA represented less than 4% of Massey’s total workforce. Its workforce at six coal preparation plants (handling about 22% of the company's production) and one surface mine is represented by a union. Providing "in house" life insurance, car insurance and now medical assistance has some people uneasy, as it could be argued that these benefits are reminiscent of the era of mining scrip and company stores. Union organizers continue to campaign at some of its open shops.

Community relations

In 2005, some residents of Raleigh County, West Virginia, complained that Massey's Goals Coal Company was endangering the health and well-being of students at the adjacent Marsh Fork Elementary School. In July 2005, the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection revoked a permit for construction of a coal silo near the school. However, some local employees and residents support Massey Energy by arguing that the economic benefits received from the company outweigh the environmental impact to the area.

Environmental record

In early 2008, the company agreed to a $20 million settlement with the USEPA to resolve thousands of violations of the Clean Water Act for routinely polluting waterways in Kentucky and West Virginia with coal slurry and wastewater. Although this was the largest Clean Water Act settlement, the violations were estimated to have fines on the order of $2.4 billion. There are rivers that have been blocked or buried by the detritus of mountaintop removal, a method of strip mining coal which requires the blowing up of mountain tops, removing from 500 to 800 feet of mountaintop in the process. This method of coal mining has created some of the worst environmental disasters in the Mississippi area in regards to the poisoning of waterways, the flooding of local communities, and the destruction of the biodiversity of the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

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