Loopholes

Mines Dodged Inspections, Fines

As rescue efforts stall for workers in a West Virginia mine, officials have revealed that 32 mines avoided fines and inspections by challenging safety citations over the past year, causing a backup in the legal system that allows numerous violations to go unchecked. The backup has worsened since the passing of the 2006 Miner Act, which toughened regulations and raised fines. “From an economic standpoint, it makes more sense to contest the violations,” explained an official. The tactic is used by companies such as Massey Energy, which contests 34 percent of its violations, more than any other company in the country. “If cases are stuck for months or years at the Review Commission, MSHA cannot impose stronger penalties for the worst mine operators,” said Rep. George Miller (D-CA) at a recent hearing on the issue.