"The families of the Upper Big Branch miners deserve the whole story of what went wrong," Kline said. "If MSHA failed to act on critical information that may have improved the safety of those miners, the people of West Virginia deserve to know why."
The methane recommendations are just one of the issues MSHA officials have pointed to as being examined by the internal review team. Among the others:
MSHA has blamed a computer error on its failure to put Upper Big Branch in line for tougher enforcement action because of its pattern of violations of mine safety and health laws.
Despite an increasing number and severity of violations at Upper Big Branch, MSHA officials never assessed the mine "flagrant" penalties, which allow the largest fines under the law, up to $220,000 per violation.
When Massey returned an advanced longwall mining machine to UBB from another operation the autumn before the disaster, MSHA approved a plan that allowed less air flow to the mine face than previously had been used at UBB.
MSHA was well aware of -- and allowed for an extended period of time -- Massey using an "ad hoc" approach to engineering key safety systems at Upper Big Branch, rather than insisting that the company do a more thorough and long-range ventilation plan.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.