Truthout - In the wake of last week's disaster at Massey Energy Company's Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, it's become increasingly clear that CEO Don Blankenship has gamed the loophole-laden mine safety enforcement system. Despite a supposedly tougher federal law that passed in 2006 after the Sago, West Virginia, mine explosion killed a dozen miners, Massey and other companies have been able to use the law as a shield to avoid tougher enforcement measures by appealing safety citations - and overwhelming the weak Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) with a backlog of appeals.
Even though Massey has faced proposed fines nearing $2 million since 2005 and been cited over 1,300 times, it's paid only a fraction - one-sixth - of the proposed fines. All told, according to the United Mine Workers of America, nearly 50 people have been killed at Massey mines in the last ten years. In March alone, it was cited over 50 times for violations, many directly related to ventilation violations that allowed the build-up of explosive methane gas that played a major role in the killing of the 29 miners. As The Washington Post observed in an editorial, "'It's a profession that's not without risks and danger, and the workers and their families know that,' Mr. Obama said of the coal industry Friday. 'But their government and their employers know that they owe it to these families to do everything possible to ensure their safety when they go to work each day.' A good place to start would be to ensure that the regulations on the books are vigorously enforced." Read more.