Say Goodbye to Massey Coal; Say Hello to Alpha

Jun 2, 2011 by

by Douglas Imbrogno | Yesterday, Alpha Natural Resources unveiled its new sign, signifying the end of the troubled and controversial Massey Coal Company, which Alpha bought and absorbed in the wake of the legal and financial repercussions of the April 5, 2010 explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virgina that killed 29 miners.

In this video I shot for the Charleston Gazette yesterday, Alpha CEO Kevin S. Crutchfield talks of how long he has looked forward to this day. He explains how rooted Alpha is in Appalachia and thoroughly committed to its people and to the safety of the company’s many coal miners. After the sign unveiling, though, he walks away from any questions from the local and state media (wait for the swinging door), though he was happy to do interviews behind closed doors with the national media.

Perhaps it was not the best impression for Day One of the post-Massey reign of the new Alpha dog in coal production in the Appalachian coal fields. (Especially so, since the company’s much touted “Running Right” safety and quality assurance program was unveiled, with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin presenting a sign and announcing the state highway department had renamed the turn-off to Alpha headquarters ‘Running Right Way.’ We media wags couldn’t help ourselves in observing how just after the ceremony the Alpha CEO ran right away). Sure, it was just a sign unveiling, but that sign marked a significant end to a troubled era. At least Tomblin stood and took on all questions that came his way afterward.

See Gary Harki’s related Gazette story to this video here. And for ongoing background and developing news about  the legal ramifications of the mine disaster and Alpha’s new role, follow my colleague Ken Ward’s essential Coal Tattoo blog. Ken takes notes in a blogpost today how Alph’s CEO has so far avoided talking to the Gazette:

Kevin Crutchfield and Alpha chairman Michael J. Quillen did a lot of media interviews yesterday — including discussions with NPR, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Bristol Herald-Courier, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, the Richmond Times-Dispatch … I could go on

At the sign unveiling ceremony, Crutchfield didn’t have time to take any questions. And so far, his handlers haven’t agreed to the interview I keep requesting. I look forward to the chance to meet and talk with him … unless he’s decided to adopt the policy Massey had for quite some time of refusing to answer questions from West Virginia’s largest newspaper …

West Virginia Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin presents to Alpha Natural Resources CEO Kevin S. Crutchfield a sign for the newly renamed road into company headquarters. LAWRENCE PIERCE photo for the Charleston Gazette (wvgazette.com)

It’s worth noting – as Coal Tatto lays out in this post – that Crutchfield did respond to concerns about the initial news that former Massey Chief Operating Officer Chris Adkins would be joining Alpha to help manage its “Running Right” safety program. Adkins would not, after all, be bought on, as NPR’s Howard Berkes first reported. Investigators into the Upper Big Branch disaster had noted that Adkins presided over Massey when the company had a corporate safety culture “in which wrongdoing became acceptable, where deviation became the norm.”

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  1. After the dust settled in the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel and all the deaths began | WestVirginiaVille - [...] [Editor’s note: Because of repercussions from that mine disaster, Massey was recently bought and merged into Alpha Natural Resources].…