Casey to DEP: Block Massey Mine Permit in PA Until Safety Concerns Resolved

WASHINGTON, DC—Following approval by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the sale of a Washington County mine to Massey Energy, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) calling on the DEP to place a hold on Massey’s mining permit application until all worker safety issues are resolved.  Massey Energy has a long history of safety violations that pose threats to workers.  On April 5th, an explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia killed 29 workers.

“While I am aware that Justice Jeffrey Deller, who approved the sale, believes the sale is in the best interest of Mon View, protecting the health and lives of hardworking Pennsylvanians working in the mines should also be a top concern,” said Senator Casey.  “I ask the Department to place a hold on all mining permit applications by Massey Energy in the Commonwealth until the United States Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration has completed all investigations on the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine and any subsequent investigations on other Massey Energy operations.”

On Monday, the United States Bankruptcy Court for Western Pennsylvania approved the sale of the Mon View Mining Co. Mathies Mine in Union Township, Washington County, to Massey Energy.

Senator Casey is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee which has jurisdiction over mine worker safety issues.

Full text of Senator Casey’s letter to the DEP is below.

May 11, 2010

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
John Hanger, Secretary
400 Market Street
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17113

Dear Secretary Hanger,

Yesterday, the United States Bankruptcy Court for Western Pennsylvania approved the sale of the Mathies Mine in Union Township, Washington County, to Massey Energy.  The mine will be acquired from bankrupt Mon View Mining Company.  With the purchase of the Mathies Mine by Massey Energy, the company will operate in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the first time.

As you are well aware, on April 5, 2010, an explosion occurred in the Upper Big Branch Mine in Whitesville, West Virginia, operated by Massey Energy.  The explosion resulted in the deaths of 29 hard-working men.  There is evidence that the deaths of these men could have been prevented if not for lax safety standards at the mine.  As a member of the United States Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, I attended a hearing on mine safety.  During the hearing, held on April 27, 2010, a former employee of Massey Energy testified on the incorrigible safety violations and on Massey’s lack of safety standards.  

While I am aware that Justice Jeffrey Deller, who approved the sale, believes the sale is in the best interest of Mon View, protecting the health and lives of hardworking Pennsylvanians working in the mines should also be a top concern.  In all industries across the Commonwealth, job safety should be the main priority.  From what I understand, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection must approve all mining permits associated with the Mathies Mine under the control of the new owner, Massey Energy.  

I ask the Department to place a hold on all mining permit applications by Massey Energy in the Commonwealth until the United States Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration has completed all investigations on the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine and any subsequent investigations on other Massey Energy operations.  Until all facts and circumstances have come to light regarding the deadly incident, I do not want Pennsylvania miners placed in an inexcusably dangerous working environment.  

If you have any questions regarding my request, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator

cc: Joe Main, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, Department of Labor


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