The rules would stop the appeals and eliminate MSHA warning letters that have given companies more time to fix problems before inspectors visit mine sites. The final rules were announced on the same day as former mine superintendent Gary May was sentenced to two years in prison for conspiracy for his involvement in the explosion at the West Virginia mine that killed 29 miners. May's sentence was shortened as part of a plea deal with prosecutors, who are using his information to pursue prosecution of other high-level officials. The mine had avoided being classified as a "pattern violator" by appealing hundreds of safety citations, and because of MSHA inaction, Ward reports.
MSHA director Joe Main said the updated rules will "help prevent another tragedy" like that one, and West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller said they are "an important step forward for improving safety in mines across West Virginia and the country." Ward reports that the National Mining Association criticized the final rule, saying it "would deprive mine operators of 'due process' by allowing MSHA citations that are under appeal to be counted as part of a violation pattern." (Read more)