Mar 19, 2012
A report just released by the Labor Department Solicitor General’s Office shows that even during the Mine Safety and Health Administration investigation of the deadly April 2010 explosion at Massey Energy Corporation’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, Massey was still determined to run the mine in a dangerous fashion. After a Mine Safety investigator issued a citation against Massey for the dangerous behavior of a company consultant in the mine during the investigation and ordered the consultant out, Massey and its friends in Congress got top Mine Safety officials to remove their own chief investigator from the case for three months. The administrator for Coal Mine Safety and Health vacated the citation and order.
The Solicitor Office report was written last November. But it was kept under wraps by the government until National Public Radio recently filed a Freedom of Information Act request.
It was only because of the uproar following the 2010 explosion that Mine Safety was forced to conduct an extensive investigation of this disaster that killed 29 miners. In its report on the disaster, which it finally issued this past December, Mine Safety was forced to admit that for years the company had repeatedly violated health and safety regulations and put coal production before protecting miners’ lives.
Nevertheless, no top officials of Massey have been charged for their criminal behavior that caused this disaster.
In the face of that power, what chance do inspectors – even honest ones – have?