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Massey Energy Sues MSHA, Claiming Regulator “Violated Its Constitutional Rights”

This takes some stones. Massey Energy, whose mine explosion in West Virginia in April killed 29 people, has decided to sue the Mine Safety and Health Administration, along with three of its regulators, over MSHA’s denial of Massey’s preferred mine ventilation plans.

Massey’s lawsuit says that federal law didn’t allow the company to challenge MSHA’s requirements, saying such a restriction “violated its constitutional rights,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Specifically in question was MSHA’s denial of Massey’s plan to use “dust scrubbers.”

In particular, Massey said the MSHA prevented the company from using dust scrubbers in its mines that would filter out dust that is dangerous for miners to breathe. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., by six Massey subsidiaries based in West Virginia and Kentucky.

“The goal of the lawsuit is pretty simple. It’s to retain some control of the ventilation plans our mines operate under,” said Shane Harvey, Massey’s general counsel.

Amy Louviere, an MSHA spokeswoman, said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation. The agency has said it restricted the use of scrubbers at Massey mines because the equipment wasn’t cleaning the air adequately.

So the agency in charge of protecting the safety of mines and miners made the determination that the mine company’s plan to keep its mines safe was inadequate. After 29 workers died, Massey turns around and throws a hissy fit and sues MSHA. Why was Massey so hung up on using dust scrubbers? Turns out MSHA says it allows them to produce more coal. Of course.

The MSHA’s administrator for coal-mine safety and health, Kevin Stricklin, who was named in the Massey suit as a defendant, previously said he believed Massey wanted to use scrubbers to enable it to increase its production rates, because scrubbers can allow a company to mine more coal without interruption.

Mr. Harvey denied that production issues spurred the lawsuit. “We didn’t take this step lightly,” he said. “Obviously we would prefer not to sue the agency that regulates us.”


Blankenship previously proclaimed it was “very difficult” to obey “nonsensical” safety rules. In 2001, Blankenship said he “doesn’t pay much attention to the violation count,” and a few years later, issued a memo to employees telling the ignore any order – including safety – except to “run coal” because “coal pays the bills.” He even said mine safety regulations were “as silly as global warming.”

And if you have to sue the regulators to “run coal,” so be it. Even if it leaves 29 of your employees dead. Because hey, it’s a corporation’s constitutional right to kill its workers, according to Massey.

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Michael Whitney

Michael Whitney

My name is Michael Whitney. I'm a progressive online organizer working with FDL Action. Rush Limbaugh called me "clueless" once. He went into rehab two days later.