Coal Tattoo


President Barack Obama looks at a document spread across his desk during a meeting on mine safety with, from left, U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administrator Kevin Stricklin, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joe Main, Deputy Mine Safety and Health Administrator Greg Wagner, and Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis in the Oval Office April 15, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Labor Department has released a copy of its preliminary report to President Barack Obama about the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster. I’ve posted a copy of the report here.

A few interesting things from it that we didn’t learn during President Obama’s remarks earlier today:

— The first indication of a problem at the mine last Monday was when carbon monoxide alarms were triggered at 3:02 p.m. The company alerted MSHA of the problem 25 minutes later, at 3:27 p.m.

— MSHA says the violations at Upper Big Branch were “no only more numerous than average” but also have “also been more serious.” Over 39 percetn of the violations in 2009 were considered “significant and substantial,” a rate 10 to 12 percent higher than the average.

— The rate of withdrawal orders at the mine was nearly 19 times the national rate.

— The report says: “Despite the 515 citations and orders issued at Upper Big Branch, three other Massey mines had more citations. In short, this was a mine with a significant history of safety issues, a mine operated by a company with a history of violations, and a mine and company that MSHA was watching closely.”

It also says: “The policies this Administration inherited make it relatively easy for operators like Massey to avoid pattern of violation status.”

— DOL is recommending a variety of changes, including giving MSHA the power to subpoena companies to provide information during investigations and a change in federal law to make knowing violations of safety rules felonies, instead of misdemeanors.

Stay tuned …