On the scrubber issue, Massey has issued two news releases this week, including one on Wednesday that called for MSHA to reverse its action and "take immediate and concrete steps to make the issue of scrubbers an immediate priority for the sake of miners' health."
Among other things, Massey complained that MSHA "has never provided a written justification for their practice of turning off scrubbers" in underground mines.
"Our coal miners are also confused and, quite frankly, distressed by MSHA's action," the company said. "They cannot understand why the agency that has been created to protect their health and safety is doing the opposite."
But MSHA issued a policy letter nearly two years ago, in June 2008, which outlined its plans for dealing with proposals for extended cuts and the use of continuous mining machine scrubbers.
The two issues are related because other typical methods of ventilating the working mine face without scrubbers reduce the size of the coal cut that MSHA will allow.
In its June 2008 policy, MSHA warned that, while scrubbers can be beneficial, the equipment must be properly operated and maintained.
"When a supplemental system such as a dust scrubber or spray fan fails to perform as designed and/or stated in the approved plan, the extended cut is no longer considered adequately ventilated," the MSHA policy said. "For mining to continue, the operator must revert to a previously approved standard cut plan that does not require the supplemental system to be functional."
A month after that policy was issued, National Mining Association vice president Bruce Watzman wrote to Stricklin to object to it. Watzman argued that MSHA was moving with too broad a policy and that "scrubber use alone or in conjunction with other engineering controls or equipment represents an enormous technological step forward in methane and dust control."
"If the agency's concern is that scrubbers are not being properly operated or maintained, these concerns should be addressed by enforcement of proper operation and maintenance -- not by an attempt to prohibit these highly effective and proven devices," Watzman wrote in a July 2008 letter.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.