Our Common Good

An executive who ran several coal companies for Massey Energy and worked closely with former CEO Don Blankenship faces criminal conspiracy charges and is cooperating with federal prosecutors, a sign that authorities may be aiming their sights even higher in the company as they probe a fatal West Virginia blast that was the nation’s worst mine disaster in four decades.

David Craig Hughart, president of a Massey subsidiary that controlled White Buck Coal Co., is named in a federal information document — which signals a defendant is cooperating — filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Beckley.

Although Upper Big Branch is never directly mentioned in the document, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin told The Associated Press the charges come from the wide-ranging and continuing investigation of the April 2010 explosion that killed 29 men.

Hughart is the highest-ranking official yet to be charged, and his cooperation suggests that federal officials could be working their way up the Massey hierarchy. Blankenship was known for dealing directly with presidents of his subsidiaries, possibly even bypassing layers of management in between.

Massey was bought after the disaster by Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources, which has said it was sealing the mine permanently.

The court document accuses Hughart of working with co-conspirators to ensure miners at White Buck and other, unidentified Massey-owned operations received advance warning about surprise federal inspections many times between 2000 and March 2010.

Those illegal warnings gave workers time to conceal violations that could have led to citations, fines and costly shutdowns, the document says.

Four investigations have concluded that Massey concealed problems at the mine through an elaborate scheme that included sanitized safety-inspection books and an advance-warning system.


ecowatchorg:

Coal Exports Booming at U.S. Taxpayers’ Expense

At issue is how much miners pay the government to tap the coal-rich Powder River Basin in eastern Montana and Wyoming. Much of the basin is on federal land.

Selling that coal cheap at a time of increasing exports across the Pacific could amount to a U.S. taxpayer subsidy for industrial rivals like China.

Government auditors have long faulted lax oversight of the coal lease program, saying miners have too much sway. Officials have defended the system, saying their approach is the right one to help utilize a region that provides a large share of the country’s power.

That argument has crumbled as more coal from federal land is being sold overseas and Asian economies anticipate gains from the program meant to keep lights on in American homes.

justinspoliticalcorner:

1) “I want to make sure we keep our Pell grant program growing. We’re also going to have our loan program, so that people are able to afford school.” As part of his budget, Paul Ryan proposed cutting Pell Grants for nearly 1 million college students. In fact, Romney’s white paper on education, “A Chance for Every Child,” suggests that he “would reverse the growth in Pell Grant funding.” It says: “A Romney Administration will refocus Pell Grant dollars on the students that need them most and place the program on a responsible long-term path that avoids future funding cliffs and last-minute funding patches.”

2) “I put out a five-point plan that gets America 12 million new jobs in four years and rising take-home pay.” The Washington Post’s in-house fact checker tore Mitt Romney’s claim that he will create 12 MILLION jobs to shreds. The Post wrote that the “‘new math’” in Romney’s plan “doesn’t add up.” In awarding the claim four Pinocchios — the most untrue possible rating, the Post expressed incredulity at the fact Romney would personally stand behind such a flawed, baseless claim.

4) “Because the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands, and in federal waters.” There are slightly fewer permits in 2009 and 2010, from between 8,000-9,000 permits to over 5,000, and they have not been cut by half. The oil and gas industry is sitting on 7,000 approved permits to drill, where it hasn’t begun exploring or developing. Two-thirds of “acreage leased by [oil] industry lies idle” on public lands, according to the Department of the Interior.

6) “And coal, coal production is not up; coal jobs are not up.” 1,500 coal jobs have been created under Obama.

9) “The proof of whether a [energy] strategy is working or not is what the price is that you’re paying at the pump. If you’re paying less than you paid a year or two ago, why, then, the strategy is working. But you’re paying more.” Gas prices are certainly high, but oil is a global commodity, and the president has virtually no control over them. And according to the Congressional Budget Office, Romney’s proposal to increase domestic oil production would not have much impact on volatility.

10) “And I will not — I will not under any circumstances, reduce the share that’s being paid by the highest income taxpayers. And I will not, under any circumstances increase taxes on the middle-class.” As the Tax Policy Center concluded, Romney’s plan can’t both exempt middle class families from tax cuts and remain revenue neutral. “He’s promised all these things and he can’t do them all. In order for him to cover the cost of his tax cut without adding to the deficit, he’d have to find a way to raise taxes on middle income people or people making less than $200,000 a year,” the Center found.

11) “But your rate comes down and the burden also comes down on you for one more reason, and that is every middle-income taxpayer no longer will pay any tax on interest, dividends or capital gains. No tax on your savings. That makes life a lot easier.” This would actually help very few Americans. Nearly three-fourths of households that make $200,000 or less annually would get literally nothing from Romney’s tax cut, due to the simple fact that most of those households have no capital gains income. To be exact, 73.9 percent of the households upon which Romney “focused” his tax cut will see zero benefit from it.

12) “A recent study has shown the people in the middle-class will see $4,000.00 per year in higher taxes as a result of the spending and borrowing of this administration.” Romney is pointing to this study from the American Enterprise Institute. It actually found that rather than raise taxes to pay down the debt, the Obama administration’s policies — those contained directly in his budget — would reduce the share of taxes that go toward servicing the debt by $1,289.89 per taxpayer in the $100,000 to $200,000 range.

13) “Fifty-four percent of America’s workers work in businesses that are taxed as individuals. So when you bring those rates down, those small businesses are able to keep more money and hire more people.” Far less than half of the people affected by the expiration of the upper income tax cuts get any of their income at all from a small businesses. And those people could very well be receiving speaking fees or book royalties, which qualify as “small business income” but don’t have a direct impact on job creation. It’s actually hard to find a small business who think that they will be hurt if the marginal tax rate on income earned above $250,000 per year is increased.

14) “I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women. I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my Cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states, and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.” Romney did not ask women groups for candidates. Instead, prior to his election, a “bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government.” They “put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions” and presented it to Romney after he was elected. A UMass-Boston study found that “the percentage of senior-level appointed positions held by women actually declined throughout the Romney administration, from 30.0% prior to his taking office, to 29.7% in July 2004, to 27.6% near the end of his term in November 2006.”

15) “I’m going to help women in America get good work by getting a stronger economy and by supporting women in the workforce.” Romney has been uncomfortably silent on the issue of pay equity. He has refused to say whether he’d support the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would allow women to sue for equal pay, and named four of the justices who voted to roll back equal pay in that Supreme Court decision as his models for any of his appointments to the federal bench.

16) “I’d just note that I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not. And I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care of not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.” But back in March, Romney expressed strong support for the so-called Blunt amendment, which that would allow employers to deny contraception coverage to women. Romney also wants to defund Planned Parenthood, where 76 percent of the patients seek low-cost birth control options. Defunding the organization would make it much harder for those women to get contraceptives.

17) “So when you say that I wanted to take the auto industry bankrupt, you actually did. And — and I think it’s important to know that that was a process that was necessary to get those companies back on their feet, so they could start hiring more people. That was precisely what I recommend and ultimately what happened.” This is false. As Buisnessweek explain: “Romney is misstating his position. He opposed any use of taxpayer dollars to bail out the automakers, advice that President George W. Bush and Obama ignored. GM and Chrysler went through managed bankruptcies after Bush, at the end of his presidency, and later Obama provided federal funds.” “Without federal funds, GM and Chyrsler would not have survived. As former Bush aide Tony Fratto explained, “It wasn’t just that there wasn’t credit available; a lot of private equity had cash, they just weren’t giving it away.”

18) “He said that by now middle-income families would have a reduction in their health insurance premiums by $2,500 a year. It’s gone up by $2,500 a year.” Premiums have increased, though at a lower rate than before. And while the Affordable Care Act’s most important cost contentment strategies have yet to be implemented, the law is already lowering costs. 16 million seniors have received preventive benefits without deductibles or co-pays and are saving at least $3.9 billion on prescription drugs. Millions of young adults now have insurance coverage and are staying on their parent’s health care plan, insurers have refunded consumers, and states have successfully rejected dramatic premium increases.

19) “He keeps saying, ‘Look, I’ve created 5 million jobs.’ That’s after losing 5 million jobs. The entire record is such that the unemployment has not been reduced in this country.” Job creation is net positive since Obama took office in the middle of the worst recession since the great depression. Economists estimate that up to 3 million jobs were created by the stimulus alone.

23) “It was a terrorist attack and it took a long time for that to be told to the American people.”Obama called the Libya incident an act of “terror” the very next day. “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for,” he said. “Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.”

24) “Consider the distance between ourselves and — and Israel, the president said that — that he was going to put daylight between us and Israel.” The Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, told CNN, “President Obama is doing … more than anything that I can remember in the past [in regard to our security].”

25) “The president’s policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour and — and — and pursue a strategy of leading from behind, and this strategy is unraveling before our very eyes.” Obama never embarked on an “apology tour.”

26) “We, of course, don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons.” Automatic weapons are legal in this country.

28) “What I will do as president is make sure it’s more attractive to come to America again.”Romney’s plan to move the country to a territorial tax system would let corporations do business and make profits overseas without ever being taxed on it in the U.S. This would no doubt encourage American companies to invest abroad, potentially costing the country up to 800,000 jobs.

30) “And there’s no question but that Obamacare has been an extraordinary deterrent to enterprises of all kinds hiring people.” Under the law, only companies with more than 50 employees must provide health insurance or pay a fine — that’s just 2.6 percent of businesses. If anything, expanding health care coverage to more Americans will actually create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

31) “He said he would have by now put forward a plan to reform Medicare and Social Security, because he pointed out they’re on the road to bankruptcy.” [T]he possibility of Medicare going bankrupt is — and historically has been — greatly exaggerated. In fact, if no changes are made, Medicare would still be able to meet 88 percent of its obligations in 2085. Social Security is fully funded for another two decades and could pay 75 percent of its benefits thereafter. There is also an easy way to ensure the program’s long-term solvency without large changes or cuts to benefits.

Mitt Romney was lying off his rocker last night. He CANNOT be trusted to lead a kids’ hockey team, let alone this nation (and the world).

h/t: Igor Volsky at Think Progress

Environmentalists’ discovery of thousands of false pollution reports at dozens of coal mines in eastern Kentucky has prompted a Kentucky court to allow, for the first time, citizens and groups to intervene in a Clean Water Act enforcement case brought by the state.

A coalition of public interest groups and citizens Friday filed the historic settlement with International Coal Group, Inc. and the state Energy and Environment Cabinet in Franklin County Circuit Court.

“We know that to create a better future for eastern Kentucky, we have to have water that is safe to drink and a more diverse economy,” said Ted Withrow, a member of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth. “This agreement gives us the right, as Kentuckians, to know what’s in our water and to work to restore and maintain its quality.”

If approved by Judge Phillip Shepherd, the settlement will cover thousands of water pollution violations and years of false reporting by the company and insufficient enforcement by the state.

The crux of the settlement is a requirement for ongoing third-party auditing of International Coal Group’s water pollution monitoring and reporting to ensure the company submits accurate data to the state in the future.

With the assurance that the money will go directly to fund general water quality improvements and water monitoring programs in eastern Kentucky, the citizens and environmental groups agreed to accept civil penalties originally assessed by the Energy and Environment Cabinet against ICG for years of false reporting of pollution discharges, although the penalties are only a fraction of the maximum allowed by the Clean Water Act.

The Ohio Democratic Party has requested a criminal investigation of the Ohio-based Murray Energy, after the coal company allegedly told employees to donate to Republican politicians including Mitt Romney.

The alleged coercion of political donations from employees may have “involved extortion, money laundering, racketeering, and other violations of Title 18 of the US criminal code,” Ohio Democratic Party chairman Chris Redfern wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach on Monday.

Last Thursday, The New Republic’s Alec MacGillis reported that Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray pressured his employees to donate to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, among others, as well as to Murray Energy’s pro-Republican political action committee. Some of the firm’s 3,000 employees reportedly feared they might lose their jobs if they did not make these political donations.

Before that, in August, Murray reportedly forced coal miners at the Century Mine in Beallsville, Ohio, to give up a day’s worth of pay to show up at a rally with Romney, according to the local news radio station WWVA. Then, too, some workers feared not attending could cost them their jobs.

IT IS BOTH a pundit’s truism and a mathematical reality that Mitt Romney’s path to the White House runs through Ohio. And that path, in turn, runs through a firm called Murray Energy.

Over the years, CEO Robert Murray has brought in GOP pols from as far away as Alaska, California, and Massachusetts for fund-raisers. In 2010, the year John Boehner became House speaker, the firm’s 3,000 employees and their families were his second-biggest source of funds. (AT&T was in first place, but it has nearly 200,000 employees.) This year, Murray is one of the most important GOP players in one of the most important battleground states in the country. In May, he hosted a $1.7 million fund-raiser for Romney. Employees have given the nominee more than $120,000. In August, Romney used Murray’s Century Mine in the town of Beallsville for a speech attacking Barack Obama as anti-coal. This fall, scenes from that event—several dozen coal-smudged Murray miners standing behind the candidate in a tableau framed by a giant American flag and a COAL COUNTRY STANDS WITH MITT placard—have shown up in a Romney ad.

The ads aired even after Ohio papers reported what I was told by several miners at the event, a bit of news that an internal memo confirms: The crowd was not there of its own accord. Murray had suspended Century’s operations and made clear to workers that they were expected to attend, without pay. “I tell ya, you’ve got a great boss,” Romney said in acknowledging Robert Murray from the stage. “He runs a great operation here.”

[…]

The accounts of two sources who have worked in managerial positions at the firm, and a review of letters and memos to Murray employees, suggest that coercion may also explain Murray staffers’ financial support for Romney. Murray, it turns out, has for years pressured salaried employees to give to the Murray Energy political action committee (PAC) and to Republican candidates chosen by the company. Internal documents show that company officials track who is and is not giving. The sources say that those who do not give are at risk of being demoted or missing out on bonuses, claims Murray denies.

The Murray sources, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution, came forward separately. But they painted similar pictures of the fund-raising operation. “There’s a lot of coercion,” says one of them. “I just wanted to work, but you feel this constant pressure that, if you don’t contribute, your job’s at stake. You’re compelled to do this whether you want to or not.” Says the second: “They will give you a call if you’re not giving. . . . It’s expected you give Mr. Murray what he asks for.”

[…]

In southeastern Ohio, Murray’s dominance evokes an earlier era. Miners at the Century event told me he treats them well and aspires to know all their names. But the paternalism also features some unmistakable messaging. A huge sign draped outside Murray’s Powhatan No. 6 Mine—the only unionized facility among Murray’s properties—reads: SAVE EASTERN OHIO: FIRE OBAMA. At Century, a lobby notice tells employees where to call to order yard signs with the slogan STOP THE WAR ON COAL: FIRE OBAMA.

The message apparently gets through. Since 2007, employees of Murray Energy and its subsidiaries, along with their families and the Murray PAC, have contributed over $1.4 million to Republican candidates for federal office. Murray’s fund-raisers have feted the likes of Scott Brown, Rand Paul, David Vitter, Carly Fiorina, and Jim DeMint. Home-state pols get love, too. Murray’s PAC and staffers are the sixth-largest source for Ohio senatorial hopeful Josh Mandel. They’ve given $720,000 to candidates for state office in the past decade.

Internal Murray documents show just how upset Murray becomes when employees fail to join the giving. In missives, he cajoles employees to attend fund-raisers and scolds them when they or their subordinates do not. In cases of low participation, reminders from his lieutenants have included tables or spreadsheets showing how each of the eleven Murray subsidiaries was performing. And at least one note came with a list of names of employees who had not yet given. “What is so difficult about asking a well-paid, salaried employee to give us three hours of his/her time every two months?” Murray writes in a March 2012 letter. “We have been insulted by every salaried employee who does not support our efforts.” He concludes: “I do not recall ever seeing the attached list of employees . . . at one of our fund-raisers.”

[…]

And yet the tin-cupping continues. “I am asking you to rally all of your salaried employees and have them make their contribution to our event as soon as possible,” Murray writes in a letter to managers ahead of a 2011 fund-raiser for Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker and Tennessee Senator Bob Corker. “Please see that our salaried employees ‘step up,’ for their own sakes and those of their employees.”

A September 2010 letter lamenting insufficient contributions to the company PAC is more pointed. “The response to this letter of appeal has been poor,” Murray writes. “We have only a little over a month left to go in this election fight. If we do not win it, the coal industry will be eliminated and so will your job, if you want to remain in this industry.”

[…]

Murray Energy general counsel Mike McKown says the firm’s approach to political giving complies with federal laws. Employees are not required to give to the PAC, he says, nor are they reimbursed. “We follow carefully the FEC [Federal Election Commission] rules about what employees can be solicited and how they can be solicited,” he says, adding that Bob Murray’s encouragement for employees to contribute to individual candidates is the CEO’s personal endeavor. “The PAC and Mr. Murray’s fundraising are kept separate,” he says.

So how does that comport with the memos urging division heads to get their underlings to pony up or the spreadsheets letting foot-draggers know that the company’s keeping track of who’s not giving? “It’s my understanding that the employees are encouraged to give, and he is enthusiastic about people giving contributions,” McKown says. “As far as utilizing internal company assets to further his company fund-raising, that’s all done within FEC guidelines.” There is no punishment or reward related to fund-raising, McKown says. “I’ve never ever seen people pay any consequence for giving or not giving to this PAC or events.”

[…]

The law around employee political contributions has its gray areas. The bottom line, says Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, is that employers can’t reimburse donations and the “folks running a corporate PAC cannot make a contribution to that PAC a condition of employment.” But the tricky thing in many cases is that a boss’s enthusiastic suggestion comes across as something more. An authorization form does not necessarily get an employer off the hook, he says. “It can’t involve twisting arms.”

The Murray pressure, the sources say, extends to contractors as well. “They have to write big checks or they don’t do business with Murray Energy,” the first source explains. “They see it as an investment, as the cost of doing business,” says the second source, a lifelong Republican. One Murray vendor who is also a big GOP donor paints a less sinister picture. “Bob Murray’s no different than if it was the Democratic or Republican Party—they’re always encouraging you to support their candidates,” says Jimmy Phillips, the co-owner of Phillips Machine Service, where employees have given nearly $400,000 this election cycle. “We are very free to do what we want to.” McKown also says there’s no there there: “The letters that go out to vendors are the same as the ones that go to employees—they say, ‘Give what you can, if you can.’ ”

I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people. And that plant, that plant kills people.

Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, attacking a coal power plant. He has, of course, changed tune on which people he doesn’t mind killing.

The big problem here is that Romney has shifted so radically on so much that either he’s suffering some sort of brain decay or we should have serious doubts about his commitment to anything.

(via squashed)

the-eco-warrior:

Finland may phase out the use of coal in energy production by 2025, the first European country to do so, Economy Minister Jyri Haekaemies said.

“I think we could set a target for Finland phasing out coal use as the first country in Europe, for instance by 2025,” Haekaemies said yesterday, according to minutes from a parliamentary debate published on Parliament’s website.

Government subsidies and taxes seek to boost the use of renewable energy and cut fossil fuel use by 2020, according to the national climate and energy strategy drawn up by the former government in 2008. The policy document will be revised and updated by the end of this year, Haekaemies said.

“Investments into renewable energy will play a key role” in the updated policy, he said. “All the imported energy which we can replace with domestic energy sources not only creates jobs, but also cuts emissions and improves our current account.”

Finland imports all of its coal, mainly from Russia and Poland. During the past 15 years, Finland has shipped in an average of 5 million metric tons of coal annually. Imports of the mineral cost 70 million to more than 300 million euros ($388 million), according to the Finnish Coal Info association’s website.

Fortum Oyj, Finland’s biggest power producer, operates the country’s largest coal-fired station, the 920-megawatt Inkoo plant on the south coast. It also has a share in the 565- megawatt Meri-Pori plant on the west coast. It was commissioned in 1994 and is one of the cleanest and most effective coal-fired power plants in the world, according to the company’s website.

U.S. Rep. John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives, received nearly twice as much financial support from donors tied to the energy sector than did the next-closest recipient, a report from the National Wildlife Federation finds. The 20-page report highlights the role it says oil companies play in U.S. politics, stating energy companies are working behind the scenes on Capitol Hill to influence legislation in favour of oil, natural gas and coal policies. The NWF report finds that the current 112th U.S. Congress has voted one out of every five times against legislation drafted in favour of environmental issues

House lawmakers skipped out of town on Friday until after the November elections, but not before pushing through a sweeping anti-environmental package that has no chance of becoming law.

Republican leaders teed up the Stop The War On Coal Act, H.R. 3409, as their last vote before lawmakers hit the campaign trail full time. It passed 233 to 175, with 19 Democrats joining nearly all House Republicans in voting for it.

Despite its title, the bill isn’t just about the coal industry: it repackages four previously passed House GOP bills, plus adds in another one, aimed at blocking carbon pollution standards. Specifically, the package would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean car standards, nullify the EPA’s mercury and air toxic standards, weaken the Clean Water Act and block efforts to reduce damage from coal mining.

The bill already has a White House veto threat on it, and there’s no chance it would move in the Senate, but Republicans went ahead and passed it anyway. They argued that their package would spur job growth — the number one message for everyone ahead of the elections — by removing regulations on the coal industry and on energy development in general.

[…]

Democrats dubbed the measure "the single worst anti-environmental bill" taken up by the House and wondered aloud why Congress isn’t working past Friday to make progress on bills in need of attention, namely the budget, the farm bill and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

"Every day in America, a woman dies of domestic violence," House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) said during a press event ahead of the vote. "So it’s not just American workers, it’s not just American farmers, it’s not just American taxpayers being left behind. … It is women who are fighting for their very lives."

The House won’t be back in session until Nov. 13. Friday’s departure marks one of the earliest dates that Congress has adjourned before Election Day since 1960.

Obama and the “War on Coal”

squashed:

Now the Republicans want you to believe Obama is waging a War on Coal. A lot of guys who own coal mines have noticed that cheap and (comparably) clean natural gas is doing roughly the same thing to their profits that their lax safety records and working conditions do to their employees. The coal companies figured out that if they can hire some expensive lobbyists to talk with their Republican buddies, maybe they can persuade coal workers to blame the company’s imminent bankruptcy on Obama and vote him out of office. Then, those republicans buddies and a grateful Romney will strip away safety and environmental regulations and maybe the companies can keep their profits up for a while, so long as the employees don’t like their lungs very much.

Of course, Obama isn’t fighting a War on Coal. His policy toward coal has been appeasement across the board. Keeps talking about “Clean Coal.” “Clean Coal” has a lot in common with “Obama’s War on Coal.” Both are imaginary things made up by the coal lobby. Obama mentioning Clean Coal during a State of the Union Address is a bit like saying, “Our healthcare system must invest in homeopathic remedies.” Or maybe, “We need to make sure our children get quality foods from quality American companies like the good folks at PepsiCo.”

Unfortunately, the War on Coal is not a thing.

In phone calls and emails to WWVA radio host David Blomquist, employees at the Century Mine in Ohio said they feared retaliation if they did not attend the Romney event.

[…]

“We do not appreciate being intimidated into exchanging our time for nothing. I heard one of your callers saying that Murray employees are well aware of what they are getting into upon hire, or that they are informed that a percentage of their income will go to political donations. I can not speak for that caller, but this is news for me. We merely find out how things work by experience.”

Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore told Blomquist that the charges were untrue.

“There were no workers that were forced to attend the event,” Moore said. “We had managers that communicated to our work force that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend the event. We had a pre-registration list. And employees were asked to put their names on a pre-registration list because they could not get into the event unless they were pre-registered and had a name tag to enter the premises.”

“What about not getting paid for an eight-hour day?” Blomquist wondered. “If the mine was shut down for the visit, I understand, but wouldn’t it be fair — let’s use the word ‘fair’ — to still pay these individuals for that day? I mean, it wasn’t their fault they weren’t working.”

“Our management people wanted to attend the event and we could not have people underground during Romney’s visit,” Moore insisted.

“But why not still pay then their wage for that day?” Blomquist pressed.

“By federal election law, we could not pay people to attend the event,” Moore replied. “And we did not want anyone to come back and see where anyone had been paid for that day.”

“I’m not saying pay then to attend the event, I’m saying, ‘Hey look, we have to close down the mine, if you want to attend this event, that’s fine, but you’re still going to get a day’s pay for the work that you would have done,’” Blomquist pointed out. “Why not do that?”

“As a private employer, it was our decision and we made the decision not to pay the people,” the Murray chief financial officer said.

“We’re talking about an event that was in the best interest of anyone that’s related to the coal industry,” Moore added. “I do not believe that missing an eight-hour day, when you put it into perspective, when you think about how critical — critical this next election is, and how critical it is that we get someone in this office that supports coal — to give up eight hours for a career, I just don’t believe that there is anything negative about that.”

At the time, conservative blogs and websites like The Daily CallerThe Gateway Pundit andTownhall trumpeted the fact that “hundreds of Ohio coal miners attended” the event. Even though the mine was closed on Aug. 14, soot-covered miners were staged behind the GOP hopeful as he spoke.

[…]

Robert Murray received national attention in 2009 after his Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah collapsed, leaving six miners trapped inside. Between 2005 and 2009, the Murray Energy Corp. Political Action Committee had given more than $150,000 to Republican candidates. Murray personally gave $15,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2004 and $10,000 in 2006. The Ohio Valley Coal PAC, a group affiliated with Murray Energy, gave $10,000 to George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000.

This weekend marks the anniversary of the most brutal confrontation in the history of the American labor movement, the Battle of Blair Mountain. For one week during 1921, armed, striking coal miners battled scabs, a private militia, police officers and the US Army. 100 people died, 1,000 were arrested, and one million shots were fired. It was the largest armed rebellion in America since the Civil War.

This is how it happened. In the Twenties, West Virginia coal miners lived in “company towns.” The mining companies owned all the property. They literally ran union organizers out of town – or killed them.

In 1912, in a strike at Paint Creek, the mining company forced the striking miners and their families out of their homes, to live in tents. Then they sent armed goons into that tent city, and opened fire on men, women and children there with a machine gun.

By 1920, the United Mine Workers had organized the northern mines in West Virginia, but they were barred from the southern mines. When southern miners tried to join the union, they were fired and evicted. To show who was boss, one mining company tried to place machine guns on the roofs of buildings in town.

In Matewan, when the coal company goons came to town to take it upon themselves to enforce eviction notices, the mayor and the sheriff asked them to leave. The goons refused. Incredibly, the goons tried to arrest the sheriff, Sheriff Hatfield. Shots were fired, and the mayor and nine others were killed. But the company goons had to flee.

The government sided with the coal companies, and put Sheriff Hatfield on trial for murder. The jury acquitted him. Then they put the sheriff on trial for supposedly dynamiting a non-union mine. As the sheriff walked up the courthouse steps to stand trial again, unarmed, company goons shot him in cold blood. In front of his wife.

This led to open confrontations between miners on one hand, and police and company goons on the other. 13,000 armed miners assembled, and marched on the southern mines in Logan and Mingo Counties. They confronted a private militia of 2,000, hired by the coal companies.

President Harding was informed. He threatened to send in troops and even bombers to break the union. Many miners turned back, but then company goons started killing unarmed union men, and some armed miners pushed on. The militia attacked armed miners, and the coal companies hired airplanes to drop bombs on them. The US Army Air Force, as it was known then, observed the miners’ positions from overhead, and passed that information on to the coal companies.

The miners actually broke through the militia’s defensive perimeter, but after five days, the US Army intervened, and the miners stood down. By that time, 100 people were dead. Almost a thousand miners then were indicted for murder and treason. No one on the side of the coal companies was ever held accountable.

The Battle of Blair Mountain showed that the miners could not defeat the coal companies and the government in battle. But then something interesting happened: the miners defeated the coal companies and the government at the ballot box. In 1925, convicted miners were paroled. In 1932, Democrats won both the State House and the White House. In 1935, President Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act. Eleven years after the Battle of Blair Mountain, the United Mine Workers organized the southern coal fields in West Virginia.

The Battle of Blair Mountain did not have a happy ending for Sheriff Hatfield, or his wife, or the 100 men, women and children who died, or the hundreds who were injured, or the thousands who lost their jobs. But it did have a happy ending for the right to organize, and the middle class, and America.

Now let me ask you one thing: had you ever heard of this landmark event in American history, the Battle of Blair Mountain, before you read this? And if not, then why not? Think about that.

Courage,

Alan Grayson

Residents, who live above coal fires that steadily consume the ground under their feet, say they are being sacrificed to corporate interests.