Today marks the one-year memorial of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, which killed 29 workers. Massey Energy Co., which ran the Upper Big Branch mine, will idle production at its 60 underground mines today — but as safety reports and lawsuits pile up, it becomes increasingly clear that a one-day shutdown is not enough.
There have been at least 10 wrongful death lawsuits, including one that alleges several miners survived the initial blast and died later, counter to the official story. Safety investigations begun after the tragedy are now nearing completion, and the chief investigator says that “the explosion was the result of oversight failures both by the company and federal and state safety regulators.” But, though West Virginia government and Congress were both fired up about mine safety in the wake of the tragedy, the study has failed to enact any changes to mine safety requirements. The federal government is no help either: A bill that would have increased penalties for safety violations and made it easier to shut down unsafe mines died in the House in December. (Every Republican but one voted against it. Go figure.) Oh, and of course the consequences to Massey execs were minimal. But hey, they were probably so broken up about it that they could barely taste their gold caviar.
So while you’re having your moment of silence today, it’s a good time to write a check or volunteer some time to support coal alternatives.