|By Bob Weaver|
Following years of appointing corporate CEOs to head public agencies, President Bush has now picked a former executive from Massey Energy, a company with a lengthy history of mine safety and environmental violations, to a top Department of Energy post.
Bush has nominated Stanley C. Suboleski to be the main person in developing policies related to coal and other fossil fuels.
Suboleski was chief operating officer at Massey from 2001 to 2003, and continues to work as an independent consultant with Massey coal.
Massey is facing an estimated $2.4 billion in federal fines for alleged violations of the U.S. Clean Water Act within the past six years at its West Virginia and Kentucky operations.
The White House is defending its decision, although the appointment is drawing fire.
Some opponents called it "Wreck the planet, win a prize."
They are asking "Suppose your company was responsible for a disaster 25 times greater than the Exxon Valdez, and that this one happened right in the middle of the United States, would you be upset?"
That company is Massey.
It happened in October of 2000, when 300 million gallons of thick, pudding like coal slurry waste from mining operations - flooded land, polluted rivers and destroyed property in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia.
The slurry contained hazardous chemicals, including arsenic and mercury.
It polluted 100 miles of stream, killed everything in the streams, all the way to the Ohio River.
Suppose that in investigating this disaster, the government learned that there had been a previous failure at the very same slurry reservoir, multiple violations of environmental regulations, and that warnings of imminent failure were ignored.
A little outrage?
The report was expected to be harsh, citing the coal company for serious violations that would probably have led to large fines and even criminal charges.
What changed when the Bush administration took over and decided that the country needed more energy?
Less regulation of energy companies.
The investigation into Massey Energy, a generous contributor to the Bush campaign, was cut short.
Massey claimed that the spill was because of force majeure, which translates to an "act of God" - an unanticipated force of nature beyond its control.
A repeat of Pittson's statement when the Buffalo Creek impoundment broke and killed 125 people.
State regulators have testified that a Massey Energy operation in Boone County exhibited the worst environmental performance they had ever seen, a scenario repeated again and again.
Bush had already rewarded Massey by giving Suboleski a hand in weakening MSHA.