CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The ranking Democrat on a House committee that oversees workplace safety said Wednesday he's concerned Alpha Natural Resources may be continuing some of Massey Energy's dangerous practices.
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., noted that Alpha has continued to employ numerous Massey officials who refused to cooperate with the investigation of the April 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster. Miller also noted that Alpha has decided to fight federal regulators over tough enforcement action at several mines it bought from Massey.
In a House floor speech, Miller focused on the findings of last week's United Mine Workers report on the disaster, outlining routine safety violations, intimidation of workers, and interference with government inspections by Massey.
"I have been personally assured that these corrupt practices won't reappear with the new owners," Miller said. "However, there are some troubling contradictions that merit a careful watch."
Miller noted that Congress has not passed his Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act to, among other things, increase criminal penalties and make it easier to hold corporate officials responsible for safety violations.
"It is clear the Massey Energy management actively disregarded their workers' health and safety," Miller said. "Unfortunately, the knowing violation of a mandatory health and safety standard is only a misdemeanor, no matter how many miners are killed.
"This kind of conduct needs to be made a felony, but efforts to increase sanctions have been stifled by the mining industry's lobby," Miller said. "Instead of being held accountable for decisions that caused 29 deaths, Massey Energy executives got a massive $195 million payout when they sold off their company."
Miller said, "If you wonder why people are talking about the 1 percent and the 99 percent, the 99 percent in the mine had their lives put in danger every day.