Massey Energy officials filed a complaint last week with federal regulators. The complaint dealt with Cecil Roberts of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and political appointees from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) who toured the Upper Big Branch Mine in Logan County in West Virginia. The Upper Big Branch Mine is where an explosion on April 5 took the lives of 29 miners.
Massey Energy's complaint stated that the mine should not have been toured before important evidentiary preservation procedures such as photography and mapping had begun. Here is a quote from Massey Energy’s press release on the complaint:
"It is unheard of for MSHA to parade non-technical political operatives through critical areas of the UBB mine without first having key pieces of evidence in these sections properly secured," said Shane Harvey, general counsel for Massey Energy. "Individuals are literally stepping on potential evidence before it has been photographed, mapped or preserved. This hampers the ability of investigators to identify key evidentiary facts that can point to the exact cause of the UBB accident."
"Having the leader of the United Mine Workers, whose agenda and rush to judgment desires are well known, tour the mine as nothing more than a gawker before evidence is protected interferes with an investigation that should be based on facts and science."
"By conducting a tour of an accident scene before proper investigatory protocols have been complete, MSHA continues to undermine the integrity of the data collected from UBB," said Don Blankenship, chairman and CEO of Massey Energy. "Once evidence in key sections of the mine has been documented and preserved, I am looking forward to going underground with investigators. Our goal all along has been to understand what happened at UBB and learn from it so it never happens again."
While the cause of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion is still under investigation, controversy has followed this story every step of the way. Massey Energy filed its complaint with federal regulators last week and after review, the coal industry’s chief federal regulator dismissed it.
MSHA officials said the agency set up the June 8 tour at Blankenship's request.
Blankenship skipped the tour when investigators declined to let him visit the suspected starting point of the explosion. Almost immediately, Massey Energy sent out a news release, complaining that the visit could destroy important evidence. The explosion is the subject of criminal and civil investigations.
MSHA says Massey Energy representatives joined government and labor officials who toured other parts of the mine.