Coal Tattoo

MSHA chief Joe Main has filed his response to the efforts by his former employers at the United Mine Workers of America union and families of two miners killed at Upper Big Branch to force a more public investigation of the worst U.S. coal-mining disaster in 40 years.

I’ve posted a copy here, so you can read for yourself.

MSHA lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss — arguing that the families have no case that a court could possibly rule on — and also filed a response to the request for a temporary restraining order filed by the families and the UMWA.

For all of the talk from Labor Secretary Hilda Solis about increased transparency, for all of President Obama’s moving words at the miners’ memorial — and despite Main’s own long history of working to involve miners and miners’ families in accident investigations — now the real position of the government becomes clear. Basically, it goes something like this: We’re the real experts here, so leave us alone to investigate. We’ll show you our report when we’re done. And we’ll have a scripted public hearing that includes only the witnesses and only the testimony we want.  But until then, we don’t need your help.

Here’s a few samples from the legal brief filed this morning on Joe Main’s behalf:

— There is nothing in the Mine Act or anywhere else that permits Plaintiffs to second-guess the Secretary’s judgment as to how best to conduct such investigations.

— Plaintiffs will be entitled to civil discovery if and when they file private civil proceedings … government investigations are not conducted for the benefit of private litigants.

—  … Plaintiffs have already attempted to disrupt this process by the initiation of this action without legal authority …

— To force MSHA to conduct public interviews and require MSHA to coordinate investigative activities with Plaintiffs and others would necessarily impede the progress of this investigation

— Finally, giving private lawyers and litigants control over MSHA’s investigation is a slippery slope. Subordinating MSHA’s investigative powers to private interests would be disastrous to the investigative process and make a mockery of Congress’ mandate to MSHA.

Is MSHA now in an adversarial court process with at least two of the miners’ families? Yes. And sometimes the tone takes off from there. But you have to wonder if Joe Main would look those families in the eye and accuse them of trying to “disrupt the process” …