by Lisa Sorg
According to a press release issued today, state Reps. Pricey Harrison and Earl Jones, both Guilford Democrats, Paul Luebke, D-Durham and Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe sponsored the measure, House Bill 2010.
North Carolina owns 385,000 shares of Massey Energy stock, currently valued at approximately $12 million, the press release said. Massey stock lost $975 million in value following the April 5 explosion at its Upper Big branch Mine in Montcoal, W. Va. Twenty-nine miners died in the disaster, the worst in the U.S. in 40 years.
Earlier this month, State Treasurer Janet Cowell and a coalition of institutional investors urged Massey shareholders to withhold votes from the three board of director members responsible for mining safety in the company. All three were re-elected.
"Massey Energy has an extensive history of persistent and serious safety violations," said Cowell, who oversees the state retirement system. “Ultimately, that has consequences for long-term shareholder value.”
Massey Energy has a history of safety and environmental violations. In 2008, the company paid out the largest financial settlement in the 38-year history of the Clean Water Act, totaling $20 million for 1,500 violations. The company also racked up 500 safety citations and $897,325 in proposed penalties.
"Massey Energy Company is a rogue corporation that puts company profits before the safety of miners," Rep. Harrison said. N.C. "North Carolina has no business investing state funds in a corporation that routinely places its workers at risk and has absolutely no regard for environmental protection."
Massey Energy is also the largest mountaintop removal coal mining company in the country. This form of strip mining has destroyed 500 mountains and buried or impaired more than 2,000 miles of headwater streams in the Appalachian mountain range.
"Maintaining our current investment locks North Carolina into Massey's negligent behavior, which has cost the lives of American miners," said Austin Hall, Field Organizer for the regional nonprofit organization Appalachian Voices, which supports the bill. "This company's deplorable safety and environmental standards fly in the face of our state's hard-earned reputation for safe workplaces and environmental stewardship."