Over/Under Regulated: When Executives Get Sued Or Shamed

on December 05, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Central Utah Anchors State's Coal Mining Industry Ed. note: This is a new weekly column by Elie Mystal, Managing Editor of Above the Law Redline. This space will focus on the laws that exist, should exist, and should be put out of their misery.


Gag Orders: Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is under criminal indictment for his role in the death of 29 coal miners after an April 2010 mine explosion in West Virginia. Blankenship has become what the scientists would call a “pariah” in coal country.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger is presiding over Blankenship’s case, and shortly after his indictment she issued a sweeping gag order. She sealed the court records — including the indictment which alleged that Blankenship knew of hundreds of safety violations at his mine — and barred everybody involved in the case from speaking about it, including the victims’ families. Berger is doing this in part because she wants to make sure that Blankenship gets a fair trial, and that the jury pool isn’t influenced by media reports.

Massey Energy CEO Testifies At Senate Hearing On Mine Safety

I think that the most “fair” thing would involve conducting Blankenship’s trial inside one of his mines. They’re perfectly safe, right?

But in terms of the gag order, Berger could have tailored one that maintained the appearance of impartiality while still allowing the media to report on this important news story about the accountability of CEOs.

Blackouts: This is a fun and novel way to complain about carbon emissions standards. The national council of electric grid operators and Congressional Republicans are asking the EPA to review its proposed efficiency standards with an eye towards power grid reliability. They worry that strict standards might lead to blackouts.

Normally, I’d dismiss this concern as mere political posturing, but the thing is, people LOSE THEIR MINDS when there’s a blackout. People loot, and cry, and hoard bottled water like they’re about to go camping on the Moon. They eat ALL their ice cream.

I don’t know what to tell you. If we produce less power, sure, we might occasionally need to put down our phones and actually talk to the people we live with. If we produce more power than we need, we might need to evolve gills. Pick your poison.


Earthquakes: Yes, I think we are too worried about blackouts and not worried enough about earthquakes. My theory is that people evolved to deal with the setting sun but not the moving ground. From Fuel Fix:

Texas hamlet shaken by its first recorded earthquake last year and hundreds since then is among communities now taking steps to challenge the oil and gas industry’s traditional supremacy over the right to frack.

Dudes, reasonable people can disagree about balancing the environmental dangers of oil & gas development with its economic benefits, but when you start MAKING EARTHQUAKES I think we’ve gone too far.

Here’s some model legislation: “Be it so ordered that any process that causes the Earth to attempt to violently shake us off of it must be stopped immediately.”

You’re welcome.

Magic: Earthjustice and the Sierra Club and ForestEthics filed a lawsuit against the Department of Transportation, over the transportation of crude oil via rail.

15th Asian Games Doha 2006 - Closing Ceremony

A young Qatari boy appears on a magic carpet during the Closing Ceremony of the 15th Asian Games Doha 2006 at the Khalifa Stadium on December 15, 2006 in Doha, Qatar.

The groups want the DoT to mandate the use of those tanks, not these tanks, or something. Really, they just don’t like oil on trains.

The thing is, they also don’t like oil in pipelines. Or oil on boats. I feel like sometimes these guys just want oil delivered via magic carpet.

If we agree that oil has to be moved from where it lives to where you live, then we need to agree that there is some environmental risk that we’re all willing to take. Right?

In the meantime, could somebody just invent dilithium crystals already?


The BP Oil Spill: Meanwhile, David Rainey, a former BP executive facing obstruction charges, was back in court this week for some pre-trial wrangling. He wants some of the criminal charges dismissed, the prosecutors want to fine tune the charges, the game goes on.

That law isn’t any better at cleaning up spilt milk than BP was at cleaning up spilt oil.