Senator Jay Rockefeller today issued the following response after the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released a new internal report outlining actions it took before and after the disaster at Upper Big Branch. The report is separate from those issued by the Governor's Independent Investigation Panel, the United Mine Workers of America, MSHA and the State of West Virginia, which sought to investigate the cause of the accident.
"There is no question that the problems that have been detailed in this report are appalling. West Virginia families should be able to trust that MSHA is doing everything in its power to keep their loved ones safe. In this case, MSHA clearly did not follow its own safety procedures or enforce the law. This report and others that have come before it paint a clear picture of a mine operator that flouted the law and an agency that failed to hold that mine operator responsible. This is plainly unacceptable. MSHA must address all of the issues raised in this report and make sure such failures never happen again.
"While MSHA has begun to take corrective actions, administrative action alone will not make our mines as safe as they should be," Rockefeller continued. "We need to pass my comprehensive mine safety legislation in order to give MSHA additional enforcement authority, to provide whistleblower protections, to require routine independent accident investigations, and to increase criminal penalties. A small group of my colleagues are blocking comprehensive mine safety reform for reasons that only they can explain. It's way past time for Congress to pass it and give our coal miners the protection they deserve and justice demands."