Click here to check the ultimate guide to learn how to leverage your PC and internet to make money online.
The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

Massey Energy Not the Only Habitual Mine Safety Violator

Companies see Massey getting away with things, so they start doing those things themselves, said environmental activist Maria Gunnoe.

Anita Barnes
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | May 17, 2010

Image has not been found. URL: /wp-content/uploads/2010/05/ubb-vigil-480x319.jpgMourners hold a vigil on April 10 for the miners who died in the Upper Big Branch explosion. (EPA/

Driving out of Charleston, south on Rte. 119, you can’t miss it: an enormous billboard, on the left side of the road, with a message from the Patriot Coal Corporation: “Be Proud of Where You Work.”

Not merely self-promotional, the statement is also a thinly veiled shot at Massey Energy, Appalachia’s dominant coal producer — and one with a reputation for putting profits above worker safety. The billboard message implies that, unlike its larger rival, Patriot’s approach to safety ensures innocuous conditions in its mines and the well-being of its workers.

[Environment1] Well, not quite.

Since April 5, when the Massey-owned Upper Big Branch mine exploded, killing 29 workers inside, Patriot’s 11 underground coal mines in Appalachia have racked up roughly 350 safety violations, according to a review of federal records by TWI. The violations include scores of citations indicating problems with ventilation systems and the accumulation of combustible materials — the very conditions thought to have caused the deadly blast at the UBB project. Of those 350 violations, 120 were deemed “significant and substantial,” indicating that they are “reasonably likely to result in a reasonably serious injury or illness.”

Patriot’s Highland 9 Mine, in Union County, Ky., for example, has tallied 83 violations since April 6, of which 19 fall into the S&S category, according to Mine Safety and Health Administration data. In Monongalia County, W.Va., the company’s Federal No. 2 mine has been hit with 74 safety citations over the same span, including 28 deemed an immediate threat to miner safety. The list goes on.

Patriot, based in St. Louis, did not respond to calls last week requesting comment.

The figures are a cogent reminder that, though the spotlight might currently be on Massey in the wake of the UBB disaster, the corporate attitude of wringing the most profits from Appalachia’s coal mines — even if, at times, it means sacrificing worker safety — is hardly limited to just one company. Indeed, Maria Gunnoe, an environmental activist with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, said Friday that the Massey model — an extremely successful one from a perspective of strict business — is starting to spread throughout the industry, at the potential threat to the miners underground.

“Companies see Massey getting away with things,” Gunnoe said, “so they start doing those things themselves.”

Patriot’s track record hasn’t been overlooked by officials at MSHA, who are cracking down on lax mine-safety practices in the wake of the UBB tragedy. Indeed, of the 57 troubled mines that MSHA identified last month as significant or repeat safety violators, five were Patriot-owned operations in either West Virginia or Kentucky. (Only Massey had more mines on the list, with nine.)

Yet in at least some cases, the additional scrutiny doesn’t seem to be improving conditions. Indeed, federal officials last week forced the closing of the Harris No. 1 mine, a Patriot-owned project in Boone County, W.Va., over a faulty ventilation system — a vital tool that prevents the accumulation of toxic gasses and combustible coal dust.

Leslie Fitzwater, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training, told Reuters that MSHA officials had warned mine operators about low oxygen levels in some parts of the Harris mine. But the company hadn’t fixed the problem when regulators reinspected the project last Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Congress is taking a closer look at the nation’s mine-safety rules as well, with the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subpanel on labor scheduled to hold a hearing on the issue on Thursday. Massey CEO Don Blankenship is scheduled to testify. No one else representing the coal industry, however, was expected to speak.

Anita Barnes | With over twenty years of professional experience in the design industry, I'm a web designer and front-end web developer. As a small business owner, I am familiar with the difficulties that come with running a business. One of those challenges is creating a strong online presence. One that not only represents your ever-changing brand and personality, but also appeals to your target audience. Throughout my web design career, I've built a distinct design style that emphasizes attention to detail. I assume that less is enough when it comes to design. You don't have to have all the bells and whistles only because you can. It's critical to figure out which elements are essential for getting your message through to your customers – and which ones are unnecessary. I'll assist you in sorting through the choices to see what works best for you.


Pentagon Shooter Exploited Gun-Show Loophole

John Patrick Bedell, who shot and wounded two police officers near the Pentagon earlier this month, bought at least one of his 9 mm guns at a Nevada gun show,

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: 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: 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: 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: 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,

MA-Sen Photos: ‘Paint the Town Red! Croakley’s Dead!’

Below are some photos of yesterday’s People’s Rally in Worcester, the rally that Brown held to counter-program the Obama rally in Boston. The crush of

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

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.

No Experience Necessary

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

© Copyright 2021 The Washington Independent All Rights Reserved

Terms & Privacy |

Click here to check the ultimate guide to learn how to leverage your PC and internet to make money online.