One year ago today, 29 miners died in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine in West Virginia, owned by Massey Energy. In the last 12 months, what’s been done to make sure a disaster like UBB never happens again?
The head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Joe Main, asked U.S. senators at a committee hearing to pass legislation that would give his agency new regulatory power.
Main said MSHA has beefed up its inspections since the UBB explosion. It’s conducted 228 impact inspections in which inspectors enter the mine without giving any prior notice.
The MSHA administrator also asked members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to pass legislation which would make it easier for the agency to immediately shut down a dangerous mine.
MSHA currently has authority to shut down mines with a pattern of violations, but Main says it’s a difficult process that requires going before a judge.
A recent report by the Department of Labor’s assistant inspector general showed in 32 years, MSHA had never successfully used its full authority to clamp down on mines with a history of serious violations.
A full report on the investigation into the UBB explosion is several months away. However, MSHA plans to hold a briefing on the investigation status on June 29 in Beckley, WV.