Coal Company Massey Could Have Corporate Charter Revoked

Massey Energy, the fourth largest coal company in the country, could have its corporate charter revoked if public interest organizations have their way.

The coalition delivered a petition with 35,000 signatures to the State of Delaware attorney asking him to revoke Massey’s corporate charter in the wake of a scathing independent report on the Upper Big Branch mine disaster in West Virginia that killed 29 coal miners on April 5, 2010. 

The report, commissioned by then West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, concludes that lax safety standards and a culture of greed rampant throughout the company created a chain of events that caused the disaster.

It shows the April 2010 explosion was preventable and was caused by the company’s pattern of disregarding safety laws and undermining law enforcement.

It says that Massey is responsible for incalculable damage to mountains, streams and air and has created health risks for residents by polluting streams, injecting slurry into the ground, failing to control coal waste and dust emissions from processing plants; using vast amounts of money to influence the political system; and battling government regulation regarding safety in the coal mines and environmental safeguards for communities. Massey has violated the Clean Water Water Act over 60,000 times.

Massey is chartered in Delaware, a state known for its lax corporate policies. The company has no presence in the state.

Free Speech For People, Rainforest Action Network,  Appalachian Voices and mobile phone company Credo released a letter they delivered to Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden. 

"We respectfully urge you to investigate whether, as seems clear, Massey Energy Company and its subsidiary corporations have forfeited the privilege of their corporate charters," the groups state in their letter to Attorney General Biden.

Following the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, then-West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin appointed an independent investigation panel to determine the cause of the explosion, and to find impartial facts that would help prevent similar disasters in the future.

The panel, led by former federal Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health, J. Davitt McAteer, found that Massey repeatedly placed profits ahead of worker safety and compliance with the law, and has a long history of criminal and civil violations of law. The groups cite the report as describing "a shocking corporate culture of illegality."

"It is well established that the corporate charter is a privilege, not a right," says Jeff Clements, co-founder and general counsel for Free Speech For People. "Delaware, as with other states, reserves the right to revoke or forfeit state corporate charters when they are abused or misused, as in cases of repeated unlawful conduct. The Massey Energy Company presents a classic case of a corporation whose charter should be revoked."

"Massey Energy has demonstrated a gross disregard for workers and communities in Central Appalachia by systemically ignoring mine safety regulations as well as basic clean air and clean water laws," says Willa Coffey Mays, executive director of Appalachian Voices. "Bad actors like Massey should not be afforded the same privileges as businesses that play by the rules."

Robert Kennedy, Jr., who has joined the campaign, implored Attorney General Biden during a teleconference, "to be one of the few public officials … who is willing to stand up in this country, to corporate power, to say at some point, corporations do not have the power to dismantle our democracy and violate our laws, willfully and systematically."

The groups see this as part of their campaign to overturn the  U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision, and to add The People’s Rights Amendment to the constitution. Few individuals could get away so many years of lawless behavior that results in injuries and deaths, and the destruction of entire communities and ecosystems. 

Learn more.

Sign the petition to revoke the charter:

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