There were two major developments in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion Tuesday.
First, the U.S. Attorney's office gave details of the major $209 million settlement with Alpha Natual Resources. Then, MSHA released its final report into the cause of the blast at UBB.
West Virginia's political leaders were quick to offer their thoughts:
Sen. Joe Manchin (D) had this to say about the settlement:
“This comprehensive and forward-looking settlement takes the right steps to truly protect our miners. By investing more than $120 million in mine safety – including improvements to existing mines, a new West Virginia safety training facility and a research trust – this agreement demonstrates that the government and the company are serious about creating a true legacy of mine safety. While nothing can replace the beloved miners who we lost that terrible day, criminal restitution is an appropriate recognition of the fact that we all have zero tolerance for anything corporations do – or don’t do – that leads to a mine fatality."
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka added:
"The Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster happened due to corporate greed winning out over basic safety precautions. We cannot bring back the hardworking miners who died that day in the worst U.S. coal-mining disaster in nearly 40 years, but we can hold the guilty accountable and make sure we never see another disaster like it again.
"We await jail time for the culpable. Today’s announcement of a $200 million global settlement of civil and criminal penalties against the company is a welcome beginning, but it is far from the end of the justice those 29 miners, and their families, deserve. The only way to make a real down payment on justice is to ensure the guilty serve appropriately stiff jail sentences."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) added:
“It is a significant step forward for coal miners, their families, and the coal industry that Massey’s new parent company, Alpha Resources, will pay an unprecedented sum – more than $200 million – for mine safety investments, partial restitution for families and a trust fund for research to improve miner’s safety and health. And it is equally important that the U.S. Attorney’s office held its ground regarding ongoing criminal investigations, so that individual officers and agents of Massey can be held fully accountable for their actions."
As for MSHA's report, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) said:
“From my preliminary review of MSHA’s report, the most heartbreaking takeaway is that this explosion was stoppable, that the catalysts of the disaster could have been addressed. Simply put, measures could have been taken to prevent this unthinkable tragedy. Nothing can make up for the 29 lives lost on that tragic day. I hope this final report at least gives some closure to their families who have been waiting for answers for over a year."
Rep. Nick Rahall (D) added:
“This is not the end, but I hope it is the beginning of the end for those of us who have sought the truth and continue to seek justice for the 29 miners who perished at Upper Big Branch. Toward that end, I fully support the Justice Department’s continuing probe into any and all individuals who may be criminally responsible for the UBB tragedy.”
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) said:
"This report, coupled with those previously released by other parties, and the forthcoming report by the State Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training, will provide us with the necessary analysis we will use moving forward to do all that is necessary to prevent another mining disaster.
"We can never, nor should we ever, forget the loss suffered by the victims' families and these thoughts keep the importance of finding solutions to prevent future catastrophes foremost in my mind. Working together, I am confident we can all provide a safer environment for our miners."