FBI Investigates Bribery Allegations After Coal Mine Tragedy

Photo via the Post-Gazette

Surprise, surprise. I have to say that it would have been more unexpected had this not come to light: Massey Energy, the company that owns the Upper Big Branch Mine where 29 coal workers lost their lives, is under investigation for bribing safety inspectors. Very little has been confirmed yet except that the FBI is indeed conducting an investigation, but here's what we know so far: NPR reports:

Sources familiar with the investigation say the FBI is looking into possible bribery of officials of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency that inspects and regulates mining. The sources say FBI agents are also exploring potential criminal negligence on the part of Massey Energy, the owner of the Upper Big Branch mine.
As Michael Tomasky notes at the Guardian, one of the biggest questions hovering over the tragedy at Upper Big Branch Mine, where a preventable explosion left 29 dead, is why the mine was never forced to address its many, many safety violations. Tomasky writes, "Well, one answer might be that some officials took bribes. But let me take pains to say that we're a long long way from having that established as a fact."

And that indeed makes sense. Remember, this is a mine that had accumulated literally thousands of safety violations by the time of the accident, many directly related to the presumed cause of the accident -- an unintentional buildup of flammable methane underground. Many of the violations were tied up in courtroom challenges, but others were simply flat out ignored -- which seems to fault the safety regulators charged with enforcing the codes.

We'll have to wait to see what surfaces, whether criminal negligence or bribery, in this ongoing testament to a greater need for stricter safety protections for coal miners.

See a full rundown of news on the investigation so far at Coal Tattoo.

More on the West Virginia Coal Mine Tragedy
Massey CEO Don Blankenship's Long History of Ignoring Mining Violations
West Virginia Judge Sides With Massey Energy Over Mining
Video: West Virginia Coal Miner Left Note Before Massey Mine ...

Tags: Coal | United States


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