WASHINGTON -- Two public interest organizations are calling on Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden to revoke the corporate charter of Massey Energy in the wake of a report on the company's Upper Big Branch mine disaster in West Virginia that killed 29 coal miners.
Free Speech For People and Appalachian Voices on Wednesday delivered a letter urging Vice President Joe Biden's son to open an investigation of Massey after findings that the explosion was largely due to the company's failure to adhere to safety laws and regulations.
"We request that you investigate and consider bringing proceedings to revoke the charter of the Massey Energy Company corporation and its Delaware corporate subsidiaries," the groups state in their letter.
Massey, which was until recently the country's fourth-largest coal company, is chartered in the state of Delaware.
"Massey cannot merge its way out of accountability for its corporate misconduct," Free Speech For People Co-Founder Jeff Clements said in a statement, referencing the company's recent purchase by Alpha Natural Resources.
"It is well established that the corporate charter is a privilege, not a right," he wrote. "Delaware, as with other states, reserves the right to revoke or forfeit state corporate charters when they are abused or misused, as in cases of repeated unlawful conduct. The Massey Energy Company presents a classic case of a corporation whose charter should be revoked."
Though Massey has claimed that the disaster was caused by an unpreventable buildup of gas, the report -- commissioned by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin while he was still governor of West Virginia -- found Massey to be at fault for the explosion on April 5, 2010.
On June 3, former Massey Chairman Bobby Inman resumed the contention that last year's explosion at Upper Big Branch was a "natural disaster," distributing copies of a 169-page Massey report critical of government investigators.