Top Dem chastises mining company for 'maverick' safety record

A top House Democrat chastised the operator of a West Virginia mine to have suffered an explosion for its "maverick reputation" with safety regulations.

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, which includes mineral development as part of its jurisdiction, saved harsh words for Massey Energy, the company which operates a mine in Montcoal, W.Va. that suffered an explosion which killed at least 25 workers on Monday.

Rahall, during an interview on CNN, said that while he wouldn't rake the relative safety of different mining companies, "I know that this company has a rather maverick reputation."

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"Several board members of this company, for example, have resigned over the tactics employed," Rahall said. "So it's been a rather maverick operation here."

Massey and its CEO, Don Blankenship, have come under scrutiny for its safety record in the wake of the explosion, the deadliest mining accident in a quarter century.

Rahall said that a number of other mine operators have been more responsible, and argued that increased safety regulations wouldn't mean the end of the coal industry, a large one in his home state, but more safety for workers.

"There are other operators in the area including the vast majority of which are responsible operators that have not always even publicly, at times, been in agreement with the operating principles of this company or the strategy that they employ," the congressman said.

"But we're not talking about abolishing the coal industry here. We're talking about doing it in a responsible manner both environmentally and safety wise," Rahall later added. "And the price of a coal miner's life, you cannot put a price tag on that and there should be no corners cut when it comes to protecting the health and safety of our most precious resource, which is the coal miner him or herself."