The April 5 explosion that killed 29 men inside a West Virginia mine was preceded by years of shoddy safety practices by the operator and underscores the need for tighter regulation, a preliminary federal report said Thursday.
"Today, some mine operators can consistently engage in dangerous violations of the law, and then avoid penalties by aggressively contesting every citation," the Mine Safety and Health Administration report said.
The 11-page report, delivered to President Barack Obama, notes that the explosion inside Massey Energy Company's Upper Big Branch Mine near Montcoal was so powerful that miners five miles from the likely blast site reported feeling strong air currents at 3:02 p.m., as the shift was changing. That's when carbon monoxide alarms were triggered, indicating the explosion, the report said.
Now, the reverberations have extended to Washington, where West Virginia's congressional delegation met Thursday with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and MSHA chief Joe Main.