But he explains that by pointing out that federal criminal authorities have gotten involved in looking into Upper Big Branch "in a much more dramatic way" than he's seen in other major mining accidents. He say he is still committed to some sort of public hearings about Upper Big Branch, but that the ongoing criminal probe could impact the timing, the format, and the kind of information that is released and discussed.
Main says his agency is still examining reports of incidents where methane-monitoring devices at Upper Big Branch were alleged to have been disabled.
"All of the pieces are still on the table to sort out," Main said. "I'm not saying it is an issue and I'm not saying that it isn't an issue."
Main also won't talk about two previous incidents -- in 2003 and 2004 -- where methane burst through the floor of the Upper Big Branch Mine, or about whether his agency took proper action following those incidents. He won't even say if MSHA has located missing documents about those issues.
"Are we looking at that? The answer is absolutely yes," he said. "All of the information that we amass will be released to the public. Have we amassed it all yet? That is still a question that is on the table."
Main says that Massey officials, including Blankenship, had a right to exercise their Fifth Amendment privilege and refuse to answer questions in response to subpoenas by state officials looking into the mine disaster. But he says MSHA may look at the situation differently when it gets to the public hearing stage, and force those company officials to appear at the hearing and invoke their rights publicly, rather than by letter as state officials allowed.
"We would look at that a little different than the state did," Main said. "Ours would be under a different set of legal circumstances."
Main says thinking about the families who lost husbands, brothers, fathers and sons at Upper Big Branch, drives his whole focus.
"I have a lot of compassion for the families, not only from Upper Big Branch, but for the other families who have been through these things," Main says.
"No one knows the real suffering and pain that these folks go through," he says. "It's awful. Life changed forever for them."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.