MSHA to make UBB internal review public this week

AN INTERNAL probe into the role the US Mine Safety and Health Administration played in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion will be released to victims’ families and the public this week.
MSHA to make UBB internal review public this week MSHA to make UBB internal review public this week MSHA to make UBB internal review public this week MSHA to make UBB internal review public this week MSHA to make UBB internal review public this week

Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch.

Donna Schmidt

The agency said it would release the documents on Tuesday morning in southern West Virginia and conduct a press briefing on the matter in the afternoon.

This will join several reports already released to the public regarding the Raleigh County, West Virginia blast that killed 29 men in April 2010. State and United Mine Workers of America reports have already been released and MSHA announced its findings last December.

While the reports have all cited then-owner Massey Energy for the explosion’s contributing conditions, an independent report headed by J Davitt McAteer that was made public last year blamed state and federal regulators as well.

In fact, he alluded to various faults of federal officials.

“In the days and months following the UBB disaster, officials with the US Department of Labor and its Mine Safety and Health Administration have repeatedly defended the agency's performance," McAteer said in his findings, highlighting a lack of enforcement.

“They point out that the federal Mine Act places the duty for providing a safe workplace squarely on the shoulders of the employer, and they insist the operator is ultimately responsible for operating a safe mine. While that is true, it is not the whole the story.”

Last week’s report from the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training was the last of the more highly anticipated conclusions, but one report – the US Attorney’s Office criminal probe – is still pending.

US Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia Booth Goodwin told media outlets in January that, while it realized there was much frustration over the delay, a release date could not be projected.

However, he did announce last week the mine’s former mine superintendent had been charged with felony conspiracy and faced as much as a half decade in prison.

Gary May, 43, who held the management position the day of the blast, was charged with conspiring to impede the enforcement efforts of the US Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Massey Energy and the UBB mine, which remains closed, were taken over by Alpha Natural Resources last June. Alpha’s findings from the blast are also still pending.

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