Byrd on the Attack Against Massey « The Washington Independent
As rescue teams continue scrambling in search for four missing miners at the Upper Big Branch, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) just shot out a statement on the Massey Energy’s role in the disaster. And here’s a hint: He ain’t happy.
“The more I learn about the extent of these violations by Massey at the Upper Big Branch Mine alone, the angrier I get,” he said. “57 citations in the month of March alone! Closed over 60 times during the past two years to correct problems!”
To me, one thing is clear — for a company that has had this number of violations at just one coal mine — one must seriously begin to question the practices and procedures of this particular coal company and it needs the most serious scrutiny from the Congress and the federal regulators.
But Byrd also concedes that there’s plenty of blame to go around. Congress, the White House and Massey all could have taken greater steps to prevent the disaster, he implies. “It is infuriating that in this day and age, and in this country, that such a disaster could still happen. I am sick. I am saddened and I am angry. We have the laws. We have the resources. These tragedies, on this scale, should no longer be happening.”
It’s too early to propose specific legislative changes, Byrd adds, but those changes are sure to be coming.
It’s not the first time Byrd has ripped into Massey over safety issues at their facilities. In October, the nine-term senator blasted the company for its refusal to help move an elementary school that sits below a Massey-owned pond holding hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic coal sludge.
“Such arrogance,” Byrd said at the time, “suggests a blatant disregard for the impact of their mining practices on our communities, residents and particularly our children. These are children’s lives we are talking about.”
That school isn’t far from Monday’s explosion, leading to some concerns that the embankment holding back the sludge might have weakened by the blast. Byrd said today that the embankment “was inspected on Wednesday and determined by inspectors to ‘be fine.’”