No criminal charges in Crandall Canyon?

February 17, 2009 by Ken Ward Jr.

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A federal prosecutor investigating the Crandall Canyon disaster sounds like he has no plans for filing criminal charges in the August 2007 incident that killed six miners and three rescue workers.

U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman  told The Associated Press he was “troubled by an ‘awful combination’ of events that made for a ‘perfect’ disaster.” But Tolman added: “When you are trying to find whether or not there is criminal intent in the day-to-day operation of a mining company, it’s a Herculean task.”

“That’s what makes it a very difficult thing because emotions are very high, and you have victims of a tragedy that are crying out for justice,” Tolman told the AP.

House Labor Committee Chairman George Miller and the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration sought criminal probes of Crandall Canyon, and MSHA has already sought $1.85 million in civil fines from Murray Energy and its engineering contractor.

Also, recall that a Labor Department Inspector General’s report found that  MSHA itself was negligent at Crandall Canyon, citing lax review of the mine’s roof control plan and poor follow-up inspections. And, an independent review found that Bush administration budget cuts, staffing reductions and the emphasis on “compliance assistance” played a role at Crandall Canyon and other mine disasters in 2006 and 2007.

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