Coal Tattoo

Massey Energy would have everyone believe that the company and its employees are all about getting to the bottom of what caused the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, the terrible April 5 explosion that killed 29 workers here in West Virginia.

But federal and state investigators — despite having interviewed more than 125 witnesses — are still running into problems with some Massey employees not showing up to be questioned by the investigation team.

So, the West Virginia Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training is again turning to its  very rarely used subpoena power to compel witnesses to come in an talk with investigators.

Ron Wooten, director of the agency, told me this afternoon that he signed 18 subpoenas today that direct Massey workers to appear before the joint state-federal investigation team. Wooten had previously issued a small number of subpoenas, but said that he has grown tired of no-shows and is serious about forcing anyone with information to provide it.

Wooten explained:

We’re having a difficult time scheduling people and sometimes we have no-shows. I’m saying, ‘That’s it.’ We’ve been trying to be nice about this, but now we’re choose the time and date.