The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

Massey Mine Was Shuttered 61 Times in Last 15 Months

Last updated: 07/31/2020 08:00 | 04/08/2010 11:43
Elisa Mueller

Massey CEO Don Blankenship has defended his company this week in the wake of Monday’s horrific mining explosion, arguing that Massey’s safety precautions “are typically in better shape than others.”

He’ll have a tough time explaining this.

The Upper Big Branch Mine, the site of the explosion that’s killed at least 25 miners, was either fully or partly closed 61 times for safety reasons in 2009 and 2010, the Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward Jr. is reporting this afternoon, citing Labor Department documents prepared for Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).

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.

Fifty-four of those withdrawal orders “were issued when inspectors found Massey subsidiary Performance Coal exhibited an ‘unwarrantable failure’ to comply with federal health and safety standards,” Ward writes.

There’s a distinction to be made here. Issuing withdrawal orders is different than closing the mine altogether, which would require MSHA to get court approval first. In cases of closure, officials would have to prove that mine operators showed “a pattern of violations” — a step that’s been complicated by the skyrocketing number of appeals being filed by mining companies to protest citations. (After all, how do you prove a pattern based on violations that are in dispute?)

Indeed, MSHA never even tried to cite the Upper Big Branch for such a pattern, despite the fact that more than 1,300 citations were filed against the mine in the last five years.

The sheer volume of citations seems to have shocked even those lawmakers who follow the coal industry most closely. “This mine has certainly exhibited a pattern of violations,” Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) told Fox News Wednesday.

Asked by Fox if Congress “needs to change some laws” to empower MSHA to close mines more easily, Rahall didn’t hesitate. “Without a doubt,” he said.

Elisa Mueller | Elisa Mueller was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to a mother who taught reading and a father who taught film. As a result, she spent an excessive amount of her childhood reading books and watching movies. She went to the University of Kansas for college, where she earned bachelor's degrees in English and journalism. She moved to New York City and worked for Entertainment Weekly magazine for ten years, visiting film sets all over the world.


Menendez, Lautenberg to Continue BP-Lockerbie Investigation

Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, both New Jersey Democrats, will continue to seek details about BP’s alleged involvement in the release last year of

No Experience Necessary

Gov. Sarah Palin’s a middle-class hockey mom, but does that really qualify her to be vice president?

MA-Sen: 66 to 19

BOSTON -- That, via Alex Isenstadt and Josh Kraushaar, is the number that defined the Massachusetts Senate race more than anything else. From the primary

MA-Sen: Brown Wins

BOSTON -- At 9:20, the first rumors of Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race started to work around the room. A moment later, Doug Flutie

MA-Sen: A Text Message From Scott Brown

BOSTON -- Having signed up for Scott Brown’s text message service for election day, I just got this text: Are you about to have lunch? It’s a great time to

MA-Sen: Snowfall

BOSTON -- Snow is falling in the Bay State, from western Massachusetts to heavily Democratic downtown Boston. In a campaign full of lucky breaks for Republican

MA-Sen: Loyal Democrats Grouse About Coakley

BOSTON -- A little while after noon, a steady crowd of Democratic voters streamed into the Cathedral High School Gymnasium to cast votes for their party’s

MA-Sen: 150 Conservative Bloggers Fan Out, Looking for Scandals

BOSTON -- The mysterious Election Journal blog, which first released the infamous 2008 video of two bumbling New Black Panther Party members waving nightsticks

MA-Sen: Out-of-Staters for Brown

BOSTON -- A surprising discovery at yesterday’s People’s Rally in Worcester was just how many people had traveled into the state to assist, in whatever way,

Net Investors Bullish on Palin’s Prospects for Staying on Ticket

Just for fun, the Internet prediction Website Intrade has opened a contract on whether Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will be withdrawn as McCain’s running mate.

© Copyright 2021 The Washington Independent All Rights Reserved

Terms & Privacy |