Read the ruling here.CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Massey Energy's Performance Coal Co. is "grandstanding" in its lawsuit challenging the government's procedures for investigating the deaths of 29 workers at the company's Upper Big Branch Mine, a federal administrative law judge has ruled.
Judge Margaret Miller of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission blasted Massey subsidiary Performance Coal in a ruling that turned down the company's request for an expedited hearing in its lawsuit.
Miller concluded that she was "troubled by the misrepresentations" made by Massey lawyers in the case, by the company's "overstated allegations" and by the "waste of time and resources" in filing of documents without information helpful to resolving the matter.
"Performance treats this court as a forum for grandstanding and, in doing so, attempts to interfere with the ongoing investigation," Miller wrote in a six-page ruling issued last week.
"I am concerned about the motives of Performance in this case," Miller wrote. "Instead of focusing on the issue at hand and submitting legal authorities that entitle it to an expedited hearing, it uses this venue to attack the investigative techniques of MSHA, which are really not at issue here.
"Performance's documents exaggerate and misrepresent the facts, and make little attempt to address the legal issues that are being raised," Miller wrote.
Miller is hearing a lawsuit filed by the coal company seeking to modify the latest U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration order outlining its Upper Big Branch investigation procedures.
Massey has complained that MSHA won't allow the company 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.
In challenging MSHA, Massey has issued news releases to promote its lawsuit and hired a team of consultants -- including Bush administration MSHA chief Dave Lauriski -- to help it argue against the agency and come up with the company's own theories of what caused the disaster.
Massey has tried to point fingers at MSHA, questioning the agency's ventilation requirements at Upper Big Branch and criticizing the Obama administration for not being more open in the investigation and with details of its own inspectors' actions at the mine prior to the disaster.
"For an accident as serious as UBB, the more information that can be gathered during the investigation, the better," Shane Harvey, Massey's general counsel, said earlier this month. "Yet, MSHA is doing what it can to limit our ability to look into an accident at one of our own mines. This isn't right, and it doesn't look good for MSHA, given that its own conduct is under investigation."