Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Feds warn 15 scofflaw coal mines to shape up

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration warned 15 coal mines yesterday that they could face tougher enforcement because they have demonstrated repeated safety violations. "A mine operator gets a notification letter from regulators when the agency determines there is a potential pattern of such serious violations," reports James Carroll of The Courier-Journal in Louisville. "This is the fourth series of agency letters warning mines of potential patterns of violations."

After receiving a notification operators are given an opportunity to review it and make corrections to reduce their violations. If changes are not implemented MSHA can shut the mine down. Michael Davis, MSHA deputy assistant secretary for operations said, "Hopefully, these operators will use this opportunity to incorporate needed improvements into their safety and health programs."

Five of the 15 mines are in Kentucky. According to the MSHA database, they have a history of serious violations but little record of paying the resulting penalties. For example, Double A Mining's No. 4 mine recorded 117 serious safety violations in 2007 and 2008. The agency has assessed more than $429,000 in penalties for violations, but the company has not paid any of those penalties. In fact, it has paid no fines since 2006, according to MSHA records. (Read more)

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