Friday, May 20, 2011

Report on Upper Big Branch Mine disaster is surprisingly frank

The state of West Virginia yesterday released its report into the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion of April, 2010. Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times writes that the report was uncharacteristically hard-hitting. Tavernise summarizes:
[A]n independent team of investigators has put the blame squarely on the owner of the mine, Massey Energy, concluding that it had “made life difficult” for miners who tried to address safety and built “a culture in which wrongdoing became acceptable.”

* * *

But it was more pointed in naming Massey as the culprit, using blunt language to describe what it said was a pattern of negligence that ultimately led to the deaths of 29 miners on April 5, 2010, in the worst American mining disaster in 40 years.

The report concluded:

The story of Upper Big Branch is a cautionary tale of hubris. A company that was a towering presence in the Appalachian coal fields operated its mines in a profoundly reckless manner, and 29 coal miners paid with their lives for the corporate risk taking.

A lawyer who represents miners, Tony Oppegard, noted that the report "talked about political pressures and things you don’t typically see in accident reports.” The report quotes a number of miners who expressed concern about the mine's safety, either to family and friends or in their work reports, in the run up to the explosion. One miner, Gary Wayne Quarles, told a friend the day before the explosion:
Man, they got us up there mining, and we ain’t got no air. I’m just scared to death to go to work because I’m just scared to death something bad is going to happen.
Read the New York Times editorial about the report here. Read the report itself here. NPR's report of this news suggests that federal regulators get a share of the blame, too.

1 comment:

D'Arcy said...

This news both astounds and reassures. On the one hand I am appalled at the behavior of the mine operators. On the other, I cannot help but applaud the bold reporter. Ultimately, this piece serves to remind me that blatant egregious corporate misconduct continues in America and the world needs brave reporters(maybe attorneys) to stand up against it.