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Education and Labor Hearing on Utah Mine Tragedy

Posted on by Jesse Lee

The Education and Labor Committee is currently holding a hearing, “The Perspective of the Families at Crandall Canyon.”

Chairman George Miler gives opening remarks:

Chairman Miller: “I regret to say that neither the Department [of Labor] nor the company [Murray Energy Corporation] have been fully cooperative with us to date. They have yet to comply with many of the basic requests for information, information that is necessary for the Committee to investigate this disaster. Let me be very clear: this committee will not be deterred from getting all of the information we need to do our independent investigation. We will not tolerate obstruction or delay by either the Department or by the company in pursuit of that information and this investigation.”

Family members of the victims of the tragedy testified on their experiences, the warning signs long before the disaster, and the treatment by Murray energy Corporation and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) in the Department of Labor:

Steve Allred – Brother of miner Kerry Allred: “This lack of responsibility by the companies and lack of oversight by MSHA, coupled with no protection by the United Mine Workers of America [of which they were not members], has led to my family being devastated. Our lives are changed forever.”

Mike Marasco – Son-in-law of miner Kerry Allred: “The manner in which Murray and MSHA dealt with us families for the first two weeks after the collapse was unbelievable. They just told us what we wanted to hear, and not the facts. All we heard was ‘earthquake, earthquake.’ We did not want to hear about earthquakes, but wanted to know when we were going to see our loved ones again. Murray more than once yelled at us when we asked questions.”

Cesar Sanchez – Brother of miner Manuel Sanchez: “As a family, we have many questions. We want to know how the mine owner got a permit to do this kind of mining, we want to know how MSHA put a rubber stamp on the mining plans submitted by the mine owner. We want to know how often this mine got inspected by MSHA, especially because there was more than one complaint made by miners…the company ignored these complaints.”

Sheila Phillips – Mother of miner Brandon Phillips: “It’s just hard to have hope, and have your heart broke every day, and have your grandson grow up without a dad… I just miss him…I would like to know where my son is in that hole, so I can leave a marker on that mountain.”

Wendy Black – Wife of miner Dale “Bird” Black: “I want to know, if there are rules and regulations made to protect the miners, then who is to be hold accountable to make sure these are being followed? Please at least have one person with enough backbone to say ‘no more.’ MSHA has one job: mine safety and health administration. It would have taken just one MSHA official or one official from the company doing his job to have saved my husband’s life. Which one of them wasn’t doing his job?”

Rep. Rob Andrews (NJ-01) questions the family members:

Rep. Andrews: “On June 3rd of this year the operators of the Crandall Canyon Mine submitted a plan to engage in something called retreat mining. Now I know almost nothing about this but from what I’ve read this is a pretty risky practice, a pretty dangerous practice. And on June 15th, 12 days later, this plan was approved by the mining regulators, by MSHA. Do you all think that 12 days is long enough to take a look at something that risky?”
Steve Allred (miner): “Mr. Andrews, absolutely not. Especially in a situation where, in this particular mine, there wasn’t enough barriers left, there wasn’t enough support…”
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