Political Leaders React to Upper Big Branch Report - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Political Leaders React to Upper Big Branch Report

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Since the release of the Upper Big Branch news today, state and national political leaders have all released statement regarding today's findings and rulings.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin

"Today, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration presented their report and I look forward to reviewing it. This report, coupled with those previously released by other parties, and the forthcoming report by the State Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training, will provide us with the necessary analysis we will use moving forward to do all that is necessary to prevent another mining disaster.

"We can never, nor should we ever, forget the loss suffered by the victims' families and these thoughts keep the importance of finding solutions to prevent future catastrophes foremost in my mind. Working together, I am confident we can all provide a safer environment for our miners."

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

"Nothing in these or any other announcements can truly ease the pain suffered on that awful day when we lost 29 brave miners at Upper Big Branch," Rockefeller said.

"If we do everything in our power to learn from the UBB disaster and make other mines safer, we can take some meaningful consolation in these developments. Today's final MSHA report sheds additional light on the causes of the UBB disaster and will give our miners' families some much-needed answers. It's tragically clear that Massey managed the UBB mine without the culture of safety and compliance that miners deserve and the law requires.  The real message of the report is that the explosion at UBB was no accident; it could have and should have been prevented.

"It is a significant step forward for coal miners, their families, and the coal industry that Massey's new parent company, Alpha Resources, will pay an unprecedented sum – more than $200 million – for mine safety investments, partial restitution for families and a trust fund for research to improve miner's safety and health.  And it is equally important that the U.S. Attorney's office held its ground regarding ongoing criminal investigations, so that individual officers and agents of Massey can be held fully accountable for their actions.

"Miners and their families also deserve reforms to the law to make mines safer and penalize wrongdoing.  My office has already been in touch with some of the families to hear from them about today's announcements.  With the families' concerns and perspectives foremost in my mind, I intend to review the details of this report and settlement more closely in the coming days, and I will keep pushing my colleagues in Congress to vote for new mine safety reforms. On this day, as we pause to mark West Virginia Miner's Day, it's worth noting that it's been 104 years and we still are trying to enact laws to give miners and families safer working conditions."

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

"This comprehensive and forward-looking settlement takes the right steps to truly protect our miners. By investing more than $120 million in mine safety – including improvements to existing mines, a new West Virginia safety training facility and a research trust – this agreement demonstrates that the government and the company are serious about creating a true legacy of mine safety. While nothing can replace the beloved miners who we lost that terrible day, criminal restitution is an appropriate recognition of the fact that we all have zero tolerance for anything corporations do – or don't do – that leads to a mine fatality.

"As I have always said, at the heart of this tragedy is the simple fact that we must do everything in our power to never, ever allow any worker to be in the position where this could happen to them or their family. Especially since today is National Miner's Day, my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the 29 miners who died at Upper Big Branch – and I want to assure the families that the loss of their loved ones will not be in vain. Every worker should know that when they kiss their children goodbye in the morning that they will return home at the end of the day to kiss them goodnight.

"I thank the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, Booth Goodwin, and his entire team for their skill and dedication in this investigation and prosecution. I applaud their vision and attention to detail in securing this historic agreement that focuses on safety and training. I also thank Alpha Natural Resources for rising to this occasion and meeting these terms. Even though Alpha did not own the Upper Big Branch mine at the time of the disaster, I applaud the company for taking responsibility for both the mistakes that were made and for investing in the future of mining to help prevent another tragedy like this from ever taking place. I encourage them – and all our mining companies – to continue to take steps to protect our miners.

"In addition, I am pleased that this agreement does not prevent the authorities from prosecuting individuals whose actions may warrant criminal charges. There should be no immunity for anyone who is determined to be responsible in any way for the tragedy at UBB.

"April 5, 2010 was one of our state's most heartbreaking days. I hope and pray that we will never again endure a tragedy like the Upper Big Branch deaths, and I will work every day to make sure that we don't."

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.

"The record settlement announced today in connection with the Upper Big Branch explosion should serve as a warning to those who neglect the safety and well-being of miners, but it will not end the nightmare for so many relatives of the miners who perished or were injured at UBB. They want and deserve accountability from Massey representatives whose callous disregard for the safety of the company's own miners contributed to that tragedy.

"Perhaps the critical component in the settlement agreement is that it denies the protection of the corporate cloak to former Massey officials who may have played a role in that disaster and keeps alive the chance that they will ultimately be brought to justice.

"I spoke with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis early this morning and thanked her for the doggedness of her Department in pursuing the truth about what really happened at UBB. I am grateful, too, to Joe Main, head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, for his tireless pursuit of answers.  As well, I thank President Obama, recognizing that the depth and detail of this investigation and the continuing work of the Justice Department would not be possible were it not for his full support of the funding, staff, and resources needed to bring this important matter to fruition.

"This is not the end, but I hope it is the beginning of the end for those of us who have sought the truth and continue to seek justice for the 29 miners who perished at Upper Big Branch. Toward that end, I fully support the Justice Department's continuing probe into any and all individuals who may be criminally responsible for the UBB tragedy."

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

"From my preliminary review of MSHA's report, the most heartbreaking takeaway is that this explosion was stoppable, that the catalysts of the disaster could have been addressed.  Simply put, measures could have been taken to prevent this unthinkable tragedy.  Nothing can make up for the 29 lives lost on that tragic day.  I hope this final report at least gives some closure to their families who have been waiting for answers for over a year.

"The mining industry is an indispensable part of our state both economically and culturally. For generations, our friends and family have worked in the mines, and we take great pride in knowing that their hard work helps power America.  When tragedy strikes and miners are killed, it truly affects us all.  Mining is a tough and often dangerous profession; however there is no reason for any miner to be unnecessarily put in excessively dangerous situations.  I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure laws and rules allow for the safest work environment possible."

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