Massey Energy Disaster Could Fuel Political Fire

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It is now one day after an explosion in West Virginia that killed 25 mine workers and left 4 missing. The company that owns the mine, Massey Energy, saw an 8% plunge tuesday in their stock.

The blast happened about 30 miles south of Charleston on Monday afternoon April 5, 2010.

The Upper Big Branch Mine, one of 44 mines operated by Massey Energy suffered this explosion during a shift change Monday afternoon and was the deadliest mine disaster in 25 years. The cause was still unknown as of tuesday afternoon.

Massey Energy has been fined before due to violations at the Upper Big Branch and other of it's mines."Massey has probably had more fines and other issues than it's competitors," said David Lipschitz. He is a senior analyst at Credit Agricole Securities.

2010 earnings are expected to be hurt by this but it is not expected to affect the bottom line in 2011 or 2012.

In the past 12 years there have been 3 other deaths at this same mine and it has been cited for other violations.Proposed penalties against Upper Big Branch Mine were almost $1 million last year. That's more than three times any other year on record.Among these were citations for escape routes for mine workers and air ventilation quality.

What that suggests to you, just on the face of it, is that there are problems here, and the problems are not being adressed," said Lipschitz. " The size of the blast suggests a large accumulation of methane that shouldn't be allowed to accumilate in that volume."

Two years after a fire occured at the Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine in Logan County, WV Massey Energy agreed to pay $4.2 million in penalties. This was the largest settlement in industry history and was due to safety violations including inadequate water supply to the fire hoses. That fire occured in 2006.

This mining disaster could possibly add fuel to an already hot political climate in Washington. The top two federal officials that regulate mine safety once worked for unions and Massey Energy has historically taken a strong anti union position.This could target Massey for more scrutiny without attacking the entire mining industry.

Massey Energy has also had enviromental citations including $20 million in fines for Clean Water Act violations in West Virginia an Kentucky. This was the largest penelty in the EPA's history lwvied against a company for wastewater discharge permit violations. This occured in January 2008. Some amounts of metals, sediment, and acid drainage into waters of West Virginia and Kentucky were at levels ten times over the limit according to the EPA.

Disasters like this could possibly elevate the political argument for and against renewable energy. With more green energy products coming on the constantly coming on the market there are hopes that these kinds of disasters will one day be a thing of the past.

There are many places to get information on green renewable energy. Some even offer do it yourself instruction if you are on a tight budget.

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