The F Word: Coal Company Shopping Spree

Until we see some serious structural changes in the coal industry, it is going to continue doing what it has been doing: trading death for profit.
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Last week, I noted that rating agency Standard and Poors had upgraded Massey Energy from "hold" to a "buy." Massey's the company that owns the mine where 29 miners were killed in an explosion recently.

Now we find out that Standard and Poors were right: Massey's prospects are only going up -- in fact, they're on a shopping spree!

Perhaps they're just taking George W. Bush's advice from 2001 to heart: the best way to deal with a tragedy is to go shopping. Anyway, the Wall Street Journal reports that Massey completed a purchase of U.S. coal producer Cumberland Resources Corp. for $640 million in cash and 6.5 million of its shares.

Now, we should be fair. Jeff Biggers pointed out on GRITtv that while Massey might be a particularly egregious union-buster and regular safety violator, they're hardly that far outside the norm for their industry. They're serving their investors and the politicians who benefit from their largesse, and they're taking advantage of opportunity -- the purchase of Cumberland was said to be part of a focus on underground mining for Massey in the face of expected federal regulations on surface mining.

One can't help feeling that while Massey's CEO may be on the outs -- there are mounting calls for his resignation -- the bigger problem's the coal industry itself. No fine's enough. And until we see some serious structural changes, the industry is going to continue doing what it has been doing: trading death for profit.

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at and Support us by signing up for our podcast, and follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on

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