The Best of 2011: Upper Big Branch investigation includes, Massey responsible

By westvirginia on December 28, 2011
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By Steven Allen Adams | West Virginia Watchdog

CHARLESTON — In our fifth most read story of the year, an independent panel laid the blame for the largest mine disaster in 40 years squarely on the shoulders of Massey Energy.

“A report released Thursday morning by the Governor’s Independent Investigation Panel on last year’s Upper Big Branch Mine disaster laid the bulk of responsibility on Massey Energy, saying poor ventilation, lack of rock dusting, and malfunctioning water sprayers on equipment contributed to an explosion that killed 29 miners in the worst mine disaster in 40 years.

“A great deal went wrong and a great many problem occurred that led to this disaster,” said lead investigator J. Davitt McAteer at a press conference at Tamarack in Beckley, W.Va. “That’s not unlike other disasters, but in this instance it was compounded by a multitude of problems…Basic fundamental safety precautions and practices were neglected, were not followed. And those contributed mightily to the loss of the lives of these miners.”

The 126-page report took a year to complete and involved over 300 interviews, with 18 Massey Energy executives, including former CEO Don Blankenship, taking the fifth amendment.”

The report also criticized the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training for not enforcing state and federal mine safety laws that could have put a stop to the mine’s unsafe practices.

Reports by the United Mine Workers and MSHA confirmed the findings of the McAteer report. MSHA released their final report on the disaster earlier this month and is currently conducting an internal review of their actions.

The U.S. Attorney’s office is conducting a criminal investigation into the disaster, announcing earlier this month that Alpha Natural Resources, which bought Massey last summer, had signed a non-prosecution agreement. Alpha also announced it would make payments and safety investments totaling over $209 million in response to the April 2010 explosion.

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Posted under Coal, Energy, Environment, Federal, Governor, News, Regulations, Transparency, West Virginia.
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