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Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Targets Massey Coal Company

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MTR MINING
A June 12, 2008 general view shows a coal mine on top of Kayford Mountain in West Virginia. The mountain top has been demolished during the process to extract coal. Mountaintop removal mining (MTR), referred to in coal the industry as mountaintop mining/valley fills is surface mining involving extreme change to the summit or summit ridge of a mountain. It is used mainly with coal mining in the Appalachian Mountains, in the eastern US. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN | Getty File

Should a corporation with a track record of frequent legal violations be allowed to operate? Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Free Speech For People say no.

With over 35,000 petition signatures, the group, also led by Appalachian Voices and the Rainforest Action Network, is calling on the state of Delaware to revoke the corporate charter of the Appalachian coal mining company Massey Energy.

Speaking Monday in a press conference call, Kennedy described the campaign, urging Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden to decharter Massey Energy, explaining the company's history. He said, "It's our position that when a company abuses its charter, that the attorney general has the responsibility in the state where it's chartered, to revoke that charter."

During the call, Kennedy showed no sympathy for Massey, saying, “This is a company that at every level of its functioning, in every aspect of its culture, is offensive to the public interest.”

He revealed that between 2006 and 2010, "Massey, by its own admissions, violated the Clean Water Act 63,000 times." Kennedy said that during a televised debate last year, former Massey CEO Don Blankenship admitted that Massey could not operate profitably in the marketplace without breaking the law.

Massey Energy, which was bought by competitor Alpha Natural resources for $7.1 billion earlier this year, is also known for its violations of labor and mining safety laws.

A report commissioned by the governor of West Virginia found that Massey was responsible for the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster that left 29 miners dead. The report concluded:

Ultimately, the responsibility for the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine lies with the management of Massey Energy. The company broke faith with its workers by frequently and knowingly violating the law and blatantly disregarding known safety practices while creating a public perception that its operations exceeded industry safety standards.

Calling the corporation a “criminal enterprise,” Kennedy also explained that Massey has led the drive for mountaintop removal, a form of coal mining which has, “over the past decade, cut down 500 of the largest mountains in West Virginia.”

HuffPost blogger Jeff Biggers writes, "Far from simply being an environmental issue, mountaintop removal is killing American residents." A peer-reviewed study published in July linked 60,000 cases of cancer in Appalachia directly to mountaintop removal.

Another study, published in June, "found 'significantly higher' rates of birth defects in babies born near mountaintop removal mining sites than those in non-mining areas," reports HuffPost's Travis Donovan.

During the press conference call, Kennedy said Massey is a company that "cannot function ... without subverting democracy."

Citing Blankenship's political ties, Kennedy explained that the former-CEO has a long record of campaign contributions to congressional and judicial candidates who are pro-business and support the coal industry.

Kennedy added, "The Supreme Court of the United States, which is probably the most corporate friendly Supreme Court that we've had in this nation, at least since the Gilded Age, rebuked West Virginia's Supreme Court for its ties to the coal industry and to Massey in particular."

Click here for more information about the campaign to revoke Massey's charter. Be sure to check out the film "The Last Mountain," making the case against mountaintop removal mining, in theaters across the country.

Listen to the call with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. here.

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