"The coal baron who runs the West Virginia mine that last month saw the deadliest U.S. mine accident in 40 years came unbowed to Capitol Hill today, insisting that his company 'does not place profits over safety.'
Don Blankenship, the lightning-rod CEO of Massey Energy whose company has notched a long list of safety violations that it has systematically challenged, calmly parried sharp questions from senators in his first appearance before Congress since the April 5 blast that killed 29 miners and left one still hospitalized.
'Let me state for the record: Massey does not place profits over safety. We never have, and we never will,' Blankenship said in an opening statement before a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Upper Big Branch mine explosion. 'Massey Energy does not 'game the system,' as some have insisted.'
That did not sit well with a frail but still feisty Sen. Robert Byrd, the 92-year-old West Virginia Democrat who summoned Blankenship to Washington. Wagging his gnarled finger at the CEO, he said Massey bears the ultimate responsibility for the health and safety of its workers.
'I cannot fathom how an American business could practice such disgraceful health and safety policies while simultaneously boasting about its commitment to the safety of its workers. I can't understand that. The Upper Big Branch mine had an alarming -- an alarming -- record,' he said. 'Shame!'"