In his cover letter, Inman said Massey officials "have significant disagreements with" McAteer's report. Inman said that former Massey board member Stan Suboleski "who has great expertise in this area, will provide a critique of the McAteer report in the next week or two."
McAteer on Friday disputed one of the key arguments in Massey's report: That an increase in methane liberation from the mine in the hours after the explosion helped to prove that a large gas inundation fueled the blast. McAteer said that an increase in methane was simply what would be expected to be caused by and detected after a large mine explosion of any kind.
"Anybody in the mining business knows that in a post-explosion mine environment, you would expect to have this," McAteer said. "That has nothing to do with the liberation from an inundation underground."
Also undercutting the Massey report are documents, recently unsealed because of legal action by the Gazette and National Public Radio, which indicate Massey "undertook few of MSHA's recommendations" to avoid a repeat of methane accidents at Upper Big Branch in 2003 and 2004.
Those records were filed in court, originally under seal, as part of three different lawsuits -- two in West Virginia and one in Delaware -- in which Massey shareholder groups are seeking to recover financial damages directly from Massey board members for the mine disaster's costs.
Lawyers for the shareholder groups argued that Inman and other top Massey officials rushed to sell to Alpha in large part -- if not entirely -- to try to insulate themselves from any personal liability for the disaster. While courts in West Virginia and Delaware declined to block the merger on those grounds, the shareholder groups are continuing their suits.
In Kanawha Circuit Court, a new petition was filed earlier this week seeking to hold former Massey board members in contempt of a June 2008 court order mandating they do more to ensure Massey operated its mines safely.
"It's quite clear [Inman's] motive is to escape personal liability for the UBB explosion, and he's now going to be able to use this report to try to do that," said Badge Humphries, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in the Kanawha County case.
McAteer called on Alpha CEO Kevin Crutchfield to publicly explain whether his company supports the Massey report and Inman's views on what caused the mine disaster.
"And if they don't endorse the report, then the president of the company needs to come out and say they don't endorse the report, and distance his company from it," McAteer said.
Alpha spokesman Ted Pile said his company "did not commission or authorize the release" of the report and "was not given the opportunity to review either this report or the letter before their public release.
"In Alpha's view, a view it had expressed to Massey prior to the consummation of their merger, it was not appropriate to release any report purporting to contain Massey's assessment of the cause of the Upper Big Branch explosion before Alpha had an opportunity to fully understand and assess the situation," Pile said in a prepared statement. "Alpha will conduct its own review into the events at Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine and intends to fully cooperate with pending government investigations."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.