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Mines avoid crackdowns by challenging safety citations

By Ed O'Keefe

By Kimberly Kindy, Steven Mufson and Ed O'Keefe:

A surge in the number of challenges to mine safety citations has clogged a federal appeals process, allowing 32 coal mines to avoid tougher enforcement measures last year, government safety officials said Friday.
Five of those mines are owned by Massey Energy, which is contesting more federal safety fines than any other coal mining company in the nation, according to data and federal officials. By contesting the citations, the 32 mines were able to avoid falling into a "potential pattern of violation" category, which would have brought closer scrutiny and moved regulators a step closer to the ability to restrict or shut down operations.
In many cases, those mines would have been at greater risk of penalties if regulators at the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) later found even a single "significant and substantial" violation of safety standards. Massey's Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, where at least 25 miners died in an explosion on Monday, had an unusually large number of those violations, including 54 in the past 12 months, a rate 11 times the national average.
Federal regulators have never sought to shut down an entire coal mine, and all companies have the right under law to appeal mine safety citations. But lawmakers are taking a new look at the process and whether it is paralyzing the safety agency's ability to enforce standards and prevent accidents like the one this week.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | April 10, 2010; 12:56 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, From The Pages of The Post  | Tags:  Coal mining, Government, Martin County sludge spill, Massey Energy, Mine Safety and Health Administration, Mining, Technology, West Virginia  
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How much more despicable can the mining companies get? The head of Massey was "consoling" families whose loved ones died in his mine while he was choking the courts with FRIVOLOUS LAWSUITS? Massey should have to do what a small business owner would have to do:own up to the violations and just FIX them. Bet it would cost his company less than pursuing these frivolous lawsuits that are designed to get his company off the hook for the deaths of over 25 miners. Betcha he's a Republican. And I bet that Republicans wouldn't consider Massey's challenges frivolous, but if the miners' families sued for Massey's failure to maintain a safe mine, Repubs would call those frivolous. Anyone else frustrated by news like this?

Posted by: crewmom | April 12, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

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