Blankenship is an active financial backer of the Republican party and the Tea Party pouring millions of his own fortune into local and state politics, especially in his home state of West Virginia. He has frequently spoken out publicly about politics, the environment, unions, and coal production.
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings show Blankenship was paid $17.8 million in 2009, the highest in the coal industry. His 2009 pay represents a $6.8 million raise over 2008 and almost double his compensation package in 2007. Blankenship also received a deferred compensation package valued at $27.2 million in 2009.
He retired in 2010 with a personal fortune worth
Upper Big Branch Disaster
On April 5, 2010, an explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch mine killed 29 miners. It was the worst U.S. coal mining disaster since 1970, when an explosion killed 38 in Hyden, Kentucky. In 2006, a fatal accident at Aracoma Alma (also owned by Massey Coal Co.) was one of the explosions prompting Congress to upgrade federal mine safety laws for the first time since 1977.
Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine was cited more than 3,000 times for safety violations.
At the time, when asked about how it was that Massey had chalked up more safety violations in two years than its three biggest rivals, Blankenship said Massey was unfairly targeted by regulators and that, "We don't pay much attention to the violation count."
A good man
- A former employee of Blankenship, Deborah May, similarly filed a lawsuit which claimed that stress from personal abuse forced her to quit her job as Blankenship's personal maid in November 2005. The lawsuit claimed that such comparatively minor mistakes as a wrong breakfast order from McDonald's, misplaced ice cream in the freezer, and an improperly hung jacket in the closet caused difficulties with Blankenship. In June 2008, West Virginia's top court ruled that May was entitled to unemployment benefits because "the unrefuted evidence" showed that Blankenship "physically grabbed" the maid, threw food after she brought back the wrong fast-food order, and tore a tie rack and coat hanger out of a closet after she forgot to leave the hanger out for his coat. "This shocking conduct" showed May was in effect fired because she felt compelled to quit, the justices said. They said the conduct was "reminiscent of slavery and is an affront to common decency.":
- In 2005, Blankenship wrote a memo to employees telling them that maximizing coal production was more important than spending time constructing things like support beams or ventilation shafts:
If any of you have been asked by your group presidents, your supervisors, engineers or anyone else to do anything other than run coal (i.e., build overcasts, do construction jobs, or whatever) you need to ignore them and run coal.
- In October 2006, Grist.org, Seattle-based environmental e-magazine, chose Blankenship as "the scariest polluter in the U.S."
- When groundwater pollution from coal slurry injection by Massey Energy, began contaminating wells around Blankenship's home, Massey paid to build a water line to his home from a neighboring town. Blankenship did not offer to provide uncontaminated water to any of his neighbors.
- He rails against climate change, democrats, and small animals in his spare time.