NPR News has learned that safety systems were not working properly before that blast at the Upper Big Branch coal mine. Some mine safety experts believe these water-based safety systems might have helped prevent the blast if they all had been working together properly. Host Scott Simon speaks with NPR's Howard Berkes about new developments in the investigation of last year's coal mine explosion.
Legally required water systems at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia were not functioning properly before the April 5 explosion that killed 29 mineworkers, according to multiple sources familiar with the disaster investigation.
Some mine safety experts believe that these safety systems might have helped prevent the explosion if they had been working as designed.
The Labor Department's first-ever use of its toughest enforcement tool has resulted in a court-supervised settlement with coal mine giant Massey Energy.
The agreement involves Massey's Freedom Mine #1 in Pike County, Ky., which is described in court documents as a mine so dangerous it requires court supervision. Freedom was singled out for an unprecedented federal court injunction owing to a persistent "pattern of violations" of mine safety law, which "constitutes a continuing hazard to the health or safety of miners."
Originally published on Wed December 1, 2010 3:48 pm
Chairman and CEO of Massey Energy Company Don Blankenship listens during a hearing before the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee May 20, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Massey Energy is shutting down a Kentucky mine that is targeted by federal regulators for the toughest enforcement action ever, the company confirms to NPR.
The Freedom Energy Mine No. 1 in Pike County is the focus of an unprecedented federal court action in which the Labor Department is seeking to have the court seize control of the mine. Labor Department officials argue that conditions at the facility are so dangerous that a judge's intervention was required.