Alpha to take on MSHA over enforcement

September 6, 2011 by Ken Ward Jr.

Anyone who follows the coal industry is by now familiar with Alpha Natural Resources and its pitch that its operations are “Running Right,” especially compared to Massey Energy.

Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., is among those who assures us that with new ownership now in Southern West Virginia things are really going to change.

And we wrote just last week about how the recent “pattern of violations” warnings issued by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration would give Alpha a chance to show its stuff, with improvement plans to end the repeat violations at two former Massey operations, the Randolph Mine operated by Inman Energy and the Justice No. 1 Mine operated by Independence Coal Co.

So much for that … Alpha on Friday issued a notice to shareholders that, it plans to challenge the MSHA enforcement warnings:

The PPOV notices are based on citations and orders issued by MSHA to Inman and Independence during the twelve month period from September 1, 2009 through August 31, 2010. Inman and Independence disagree with and intend to challenge the issuance of such notices because (i) many of the citations and orders on which the notices are based have been contested and should not be included in the PPOV screening process because they are not final orders of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, and (ii) MSHA has failed to follow its procedural policy which states:

There may be extraordinary occasions when a mine meets the screening criteria by which mines are identified as exhibiting a potential pattern of violations but there are mitigating circumstances that make a potential pattern notification inappropriate. Examples of situations that would be necessary to justify not issuing a PPOV notification are: • Recent bona fide changes in mine ownership or management….

On June 1, 2011, Alpha acquired Massey Energy Company (“Massey”), the ultimate parent of Inman and Independence. Since the change in ownership, significant management changes have been made at both mines.

Inman and Independence also intend to fully analyze the nature and type of the subject citations and orders issued during Massey’s ownership, and use that analysis as the basis for developing a written plan for corrective action at their respective mines.

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