This is breaking news out of the Charleston Gazette and what I picked up via Ken Ward (veteran Gazette journalist) on Twitter.
Parts or all of Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine were ordered closed more than 60 times in 2009-10, but federal regulators never took stepped-up action to cite the operation for a "pattern of violations," according to U.S. Labor Department documents.
Officials from the department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration issued 54 withdrawal orders to the Upper Big Branch Mine in 2009 and seven so far in 2010, according to the documents.
Where these orders basically ignored by Dictator Blankenship? And when do our West Virginia Congressmen come into play here?
This is truly disturbing news. Its incredibly sad, and scary that nothing has been done about it.
"That’s a significant number of withdrawal orders," said Davitt McAteer, a longtime mine safety advocate who ran MSHA during the Clinton administration. "That’s a number that is quite dramatic."
Under federal law, MSHA generally does not have broad authority to simply close a troubled coal mine, unless it seeks a federal court injunction to stop anything its inspectors believe "constitutes a continuing hazard to the health and safety of miners."
But, on its own authority and without going to court, MSHA can issue what the law calls "withdrawal orders" that force all miners to be removed from areas until significant hazards are eliminated.
In the case of the Upper Big Branch Mine, most of the withdrawal orders — 48 in 2009 and six during the first three months of this year — were issued when inspectors found Massey subsidiary Performance Coal exhibited an "unwarrantable failure" to comply with federal health and safety standards.
One of the most series withdrawal orders was issued in December 2009 under a section of federal law that allows inspectors to respond to "imminent danger" that "could reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm."
Something must be done. I pray that things like this won’t be overlooked in the future. Lives have been lost. It is a sad day.