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Former Mine Regulators Criticize Msha Bar


Massey Energy says that two former, high-ranking federal mining regulators, David Lauriski, former assistant secretary of labor for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and former MSHA Deputy Administrator Michael Lawless agree that MSHA has exceeded its legal authority by barring Massey from photographing and conducting other tests at its Upper Big Branch mine

Massey Energy says that two former, high-ranking federal mining regulators--David Lauriski, former assistant secretary of labor for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and former MSHA Deputy Administrator Michael Lawless--agree that MSHA has exceeded its legal authority by barring Massey from photographing and conducting other tests at its Upper Big Branch mine to help determine the cause of an April 5 explosion.

Massey Energy wants to take its own photographs, conduct electronic mapping and take coal dust samples as part of the investigation. The two former regulators have signed declarations supporting Massey Energy in its legal action against MSHA. The legal challenge asks the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission to overturn MSHA's order against Massey.

Lauriski said the prohibitions imposed by MSHA "are extraordinary and problematic," have nothing to do with miner health or safety and that, in fact, they exceed MSHA's authority under federal law. Also, he said, MSHA has never before imposed such restrictions on a mine operator during an accident investigation.

Massey, Lauriski added, has the right "to take photographs during such inspections and investigations [of a mine after an accident], to map a mine or an area of a mine to take dust samples and observe and/or participate in evidence testing without impeding or interfering with MSHA's inspection or investigation." He also noted that allowing Massey to take pictures, to map, and to sample coal dust would not interfere with the federal investigation.

Lawless, who worked at MSHA as a regulator for more than 30 years, agreed that MSHA's prohibitions on Massey "cannot be justified by safety concerns or the current condition of the mine."

Shane Harvey, vice president and general counsel for Massey, said the willingness of two former MSHA regulators to support Massey's complaint shows how unusual are the limits imposed on the company by MSHA.