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Judge rejects Massey disaster-probe complaints

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An administrative law judge has rejected Massey Energy's legal challenge to the procedures being used by federal regulators to investigate the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster.

Judge Margaret Miller of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission turned down Massey's bid to take its own photographs, gather its own physical evidence, and conduct its own underground mapping of conditions in the mine after the April 5 explosion that killed 29 workers.

In a ruling issued Friday, Miller concluded that MSHA's protocols for the investigation "are rationally connected to safely conducting the accident investigation."

Massey has been engaged in an aggressive public relations and legal effort to discredit the MSHA investigation, and last week several management employees cited MSHA's involvement in refusing to appear under subpoena for closed-door interviews about the explosion.

Miller blasted Massey in a July ruling in which she refused to expedite consideration of Massey's challenge to the MSHA investigation procedures of its Performance Coal subsidiary.

"Performance's documents exaggerate and misrepresent the facts, and make little attempt to address the legal issues being raised," Miller wrote. "Instead, [Massey] treats this court as a forum for grandstanding and, in doing so, attempts to interfere with the ongoing investigation."

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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