Why We Need Regulators: The Blankenship Example

Go and read the findings of the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s investigation of how Massey Energy worked in the run-up to the 2010 mine explosion in West Virginia. The New York Times write-up of the findings is a good primer.

[Administrator Kevin] Stricklin showed scanned copies of pages from the reports side by side in his presentation on Wednesday. The internal report from March 1, 2010, shortly before the accident, noted a problem with water sprayers, while the official report stated flatly “none observed” in the column for hazardous conditions.

Massey managers appeared to have pressured workers to omit dangerous conditions from the official books, Mr. Stricklin said, a finding that echoed Mr. McAteer’s conclusion that workers who tried to report risks were intimidated.

The whole report is here. There are more grim details – “Examiners assigned by the mine operator did not turn on gas detectors,” and so on. It’s clear that the accident could have been prevented if the company obeyed safety regulations. What was Don Blankenship doing in the run-up to this? Ah, yes.

Those pesky environmental extremists.