WASHINGTON — Federal mine safety officials are painting a portrait of ineptitude and confusion by officials at
The depiction — in an internal memo from a top official at the Mine Safety and Health Administration — is part of a lengthy rebuttal to Massey’s assertions that the government forced it to make changes that would reduce the volume of fresh air in the mine before the blast. It comes as Massey said the explosion may have been caused by a surge of volatile methane outside of the company’s control.
A copy of the memo from deputy assistant secretary Gregory Wagner to the Labor Department’s top lawyer was obtained by the Associated Press.
The memo adds to the bitter public feud that has played out between Massey and the Mine Safety and Health Administration in the months since the Upper Big Branch mine tragedy in Montcoal, W.Va. Government officials have said Massey has a lax attitude toward safety, while Massey chief executive Don Blankenship insists he does not put profits ahead of safety.
The memo accuses Massey of making the assertions about ventilation as part of a public relations strategy to deflect blame for the accident from the company. Wagner’s memo states that Massey proposed in January to reduce the amount of air flowing to the working sections of the mine so it could redirect air to another area where it wanted to produce more coal.