Massey Rips Senate Lawmakers for ‘Political Grandstanding’
Massey Energy, the coal giant that owns the West Virginia mine where 29 miners were killed in a blast April 5, might be racking up thousands of safety violations at other projects since the explosion; it might have former workers decrying its safety policies; and it might be contesting more citations than any other mining company in the nation.
But that, the company said Tuesday, doesn’t give lawmakers free license to attack its safety record. Responding to yesterday’s Senate HELP Committee hearing on mine safety, Massey said it’s “disappointed” that the discussion “degenerated into political grandstanding.”
“Unfortunately, all the sound bites in the world will not improve the safety of a single miner in America,” the statement reads, adding that overzealous federal regulators — not the industry — are responsible for the enormous backlog of citation appeals.
In 2006, according to MSHA records, MSHA assessed violations against the coal industry totaling $35.1 million. By 2008, this had grown to $194.2 million. The fines levied increased 5.5 times. With the number of violations much higher and the fines per violation much higher, it is not surprising that the number of contests increased.
Of note, Democrats declined to invite anyone from Massey to testify at Tuesday’s hearing. A Senate aide said that lawmakers didn’t want to interfere with the current probe into the cause of the deadly blast at the Upper Big Branch.
But that’s a curious argument, particularly in light of the fact that the other high-profile hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday — featuring executives from Goldman Sachs called to defend their investments prior to the recent global economic meltdown — came even as the S.E.C. has filed civil charges against the company, charges that didn’t prevent Senate lawmakers from grilling those executives for 11 hours.