Vol. 18, Nos. 23 & 24

  • Accidents:
    • Outburst causes seven injuries in latest incident at Lucky Friday Mine (632)
    • Two hurt in separate roof falls at Emerald Mine in Pennsylvania (634)
    • Two hurt in electrical incident at Newmont Gold mine (634)
    • Anthracite miner survives entanglement in belt conveyor (634)
    • JWR No. 7 has two hurt in separate draw rock incidents (635)
    • Carbon monoxide idles Signal Peak Mine (636)
    • Injuries again avoided in 10th explosion at Carmeuse Lime Inc. cement plant this year (637)
    • Pay Car Mining inundation not promptly reported (637)
    • Driver Rescued From Upended Truck at Barrick Goldstrike (638)
  • Berms and Guardrails: Commission remands ALJ decision on truck scale, berm violation (639)
  • Civil Penalties:
    • MSHA goes after quarry operator for unpaid penalties (640)
    • Judge accuses company of “shell game” and orders it to pay over $200,000 in fines (640)
    • Judge chastises Solicitors office for lack of documentation in penalty settlement (641)
    • MSHA officially reinstates conferencing procedures (641)
    • Review Commission vacates $1 penalty for examination book violation; sends case back to ALJ (642)
  • Criminal Proceedings:
    • Alpha, government non-criminal settlement of Upper Big Branch leaves families bitter (642)
    • Members of Congress push U.S. Attorney for investigation into individual liability for UBB disaster (644)
  • Discrimination:
    • ALJ doubles MSHA’s penalty to $40,000 in discrimination case (645)
    • Female employee settles sex discrimination case with Chemical Lime (649)
  • Equipment Safety:
    • Pulling plug from machine battery can cause electrical hazard, MSHA warns (650)
    • Caterpillar has important safety upgrade for continuous miner remotes (650)
  • Fatalities:
    • Fall over 90-foot highwall at Oxford Mining in Ohio proves fatal (650)
    • Death at Fairbanks Coal makes three highwall collapses in 2011 (651)
    • Last inspection at fatal Knife River site was over 1 year ago (651)
    • Twenty-two year old killed at small Pennsylvania crushing operation (652)
    • Plant worker slipped through hatch left unguarded for 8 days at Fairbanks Gold. (652)
    • MSHA concludes 20-month investigation of UBB with 369 citations and orders, $10.8 million in fines (654)
  • Fire Protection: Fire Sensors must de-energize completely in coal mine fan stoppage (663)
  • Injunctions: Labor seeks injunction to inspect Vermont slate company (664)
  • Investigations: OIG finds delinquent, uncollected penalties, along with “exclusion list” (664)
  • Labor Relations:
    • UMWA reaches labor agreements with Alpha, JWR operations (672)
    • Peabody’s Willow Lake Mine engaged in unfair labor practices, judge rules (672)
  • Legislation: Republican Shelly Moore Capito introduces mine safety “accountability” bill (673)
  • Mines Opening, Closing: Alliance Resource partners opens new coal mine with 320 jobs (676)
  • Mine Rescue: MSHA issues mine rescue station inspection guidelines for coal inspectors (676)
  • On the Move: Brian Goepfert to head MSHA’s M/NM Safety Division; Carpenter to head Policy Evaluation (677)
  • Pattern of Violations:
    • Eight mines hit with PPOV including two previous years’ repeats and scofflaw mine (677)
    • ALJ upholds MSHA’s ability to issue POV notice; company can immediately challenge citations (678)
  • Review Commission, ALJ Decisions and Settlements (680)

Dems Ask Holder to Pursue Criminal Charges…

Today House Democrats wrote a Letter_to_Attorney_General_Holder asking the U.S. Attorney General to “vigorously pursue” investigations and prosecutions of individuals responsible for the April 5, 2010 UBB disaster that killed 29 men, injured two, ruined countless lives, and left miners and rescuers suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder… not to mention who knows how many miners with black lung disease from working in those intolerable conditions. Not only was the “accident” completely preventable, but no one yet has been held responsible.

Coal Barons With Tax Breaks

So the Associated Press reports that West Virginia’s Coal baron, and Greenbriar owner James Justice just gave $10 million to the Cleveland Clinic. Not that society doesn’t appreciate this, but geez, what a nice tax write off.

Meanwhile, MSHA’s latest numbers, which have to be close to correct given the IG report, show that Justice’s mines owe $1,086,719 in delinquent penalties.

Perhaps the problem for Mr. Justice is that that MSHA fines aren’t tax detuctible.

Other companies manage to pay their fines on time with few to no delinquencies. We’ve writen about them.

What does it take?

I propose a new policy. You can’t get a tax break if you or the company you control, owes the government. After all corporations have the same “rights” as citizens correct?

Makes sense (cents) to me.

Alpha Gets 90 Days to Comply with Rock Dusting Standards?

So, according to yesterday’s “global settlement” signed by the U.S. Attorneys Office, MSHA and Alpha Natural Resource:

Alpha will implement a plan within 90 days from the execution of this Agreement to ensure that each of its underground mines has the personnel and resources necessary to meet all legal requirements relating to incombustible material and to prevent accumulations of coal dust and loose coal. Alpha will conduct mine site training for coal dust accumulation, cleanup, and reporting requirements for all underground workers in an annual safety training session dedicated to those
topics

How can any government agency give a company 90 days to comply with a regulation that the company should be complying with the minute they open a mine for production? Shouldn’t MSHA actually close down the mines where equipment and resources don’t allow full compliance? Please, someone explain this.

From Booth Goodwin on this section of the settlement. Booth said that Alpha has 90 days to give his office a plan on how Alpha will comply with the law and training at Massey Legacy mines — not 90 days to comply with the law.

UBB Contractor – David Stanley Consultants

MSHA today cited independent contractor David Stanley Consultants for two contributory violations in the April 5, 2010 mine disaster, administrator for coal mine safety and health Kevin Stricklin announced.

Fairmont, W.Va., based David Stanley Consultants LLC was under contract to conduct safety examinations at the mine, Stricklin said. Stricklin spoke during a news conference in Beckley, W.Va., to discuss the agency

Questions, Question, Questions

So, one would think that a “global settlement” of the magnitutude of the Alpha settlement below would be perfectly clear — right? WRONG.

So, we have some questions.

First: What happens to the mines that had received PPOV notices from MSHA? According to the settlement, nothing in this agreement “will be deemed to constitute admission by Alpha or any of its affiliates or an individual of civil liability under any any local, state or federal statute or any principle of common law.”

What’s happended in terms of the mines who received “Potential Pattern of Violation” notices? Poof? Gone? Nada? Potential Pattern doesn’t exist?

MSHA said that POV will still apply.

What about the tax benefits from the settlement? Alpha agreed to update equipment, use the latest and greatest sensors, meters and rock dusting equipment. I’m glad. But this equipment is a part of doing business and for tax purposes gets written off the bottom line … doesn’t it? Why should that be part of a settlement?