Home Energy and Environment Cooch Hearts Massey Energy and Its Deadly Coal Mines

Cooch Hearts Massey Energy and Its Deadly Coal Mines

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Early today, there was a terrible tragedy at a coal mine in West Virginia. Our hearts go out to all the victims, as well as to their families, friends and coworkers, in what’s being called “the worst U.S. mine disaster since 1984.”

In addition to sadness, this explosion should also make you angry. The fact is, this mine had “a history of violations for not properly ventilating highly combustible methane gas, safety officials said.”  Why was that situation never dealt with adequately?

For a possible answer to that question [NOTE: see update #3 below], see NLS, which points out that: 1) Massey Energy is based in Richmond; 2) Massey’s Knox Creek site in Tazewell County “was one of ten sites in the country to be cited for major health and safety violations last October”; 3) our fine Attorney General is not only NOT cracking down on Massey, he “is actually working with Massey Energy on his lawsuit against the EPA;” and 4) Massey hearts Virginia Republicans, having donated $61,000 to Virginia Republicans in 2009 (“and $0 to the Dems”), not to mention $441,463 to Virginia Republicans since 1997 (just $8,250 to Democrats), including $40,000 to Bob McDonnell for Governor and $10,000 to Ken Cuccinelli for Attorney General.

So, as NLS concludes:

Now Ken Cuccinelli has a choice to make. Will he open up an investigation and ensure that the Massey mining site in Tazewell that has had so many violations of health and safety will comply with the law and ensure its workers safety?  Or is he going to ignore safety warnings even after yesterday’s tragedy and hope by 2013 that Massey continues to reward him with large political contributions for his efforts to help in their legal actions against the EPA?

We’re waiting for an answer Mr. Attorney General.

Yes, we are waiting for an answer, but don’t expect one anytime soon. The fact is, Ken Cuccinelli and others in Virginia government – overwhelmingly Republican – are deeply in the pocket of Massey Energy and Don Blankenship, far more concerned with doing their bidding than in protecting workers, the environment, etc.

More broadly, the question is why, in the year 2010, we are still stuck in a 19th century energy economy (coal and other fossil fuels) instead of a 21st century one (energy efficiency, wind, solar, geothermal, etc.)? Also, why do we let scumbags like Massey Chairman/CEO Don Blankenship get away with murder – repeated, serious safety violations leading to the deaths of miners?  On both of those questions, there’s a very simple answer: follow the money…

UPDATE: SatirclAlxndria tweets, “WVA mine accident, 25 dead & @KenCuccinelli waxing rhapsodic about Roanoke sunrise & press interviews!”

UPDATE #2: Daily Kos has more on Don Blankenship and the politicians he gives $$$ to.

UPDATE #3: Just to be clear, let me just state that there is absolutely no evidence Ken Cuccinelli caused or contributed to the terrible tragedy in West Virginia. What I’m saying is that Cuccinelli (and Virginia Republicans more broadly) receives large sums of money from Richmond-based Massey, that this is not a good thing, and that Cooch should be focused on cracking down against safety violations in Virginia before we have a mine disaster here as well. Cooch also needs to stop doing the anti-worker, anti-environment bidding of companies like Massey.

UPDATE #4: It’s also worth noting that Virginia’s two previous AG’s, Jerry Kilgore (2002-2005) and Bob McDonnell (2006-2009), apparently did nothing to rein in out-of-control Massey Energy on worker safety, the environment, or anything else. Neither did Mark Earley (1998-2001) or Jim Gilmore (1994-1997).  

  • kindler

    …that the VA Attorney General’s job is to serve the people of the Commonwealth.  Clearly, as we all know, the AG’s job is to endlessly attack the White House and score political points so as to get on Fox News.  

    Why would you want to distract him with such trivial matters as health, safety and corporate liability?  Can’t you see the man’s busy?

    • It’s always “political” when it’s the right wingnuts letting corporations get away with murder and Democrats call ’em on it. So, you’re cool with Cooch et al. working to make sure the planet burns up, people don’t get health care, mountaintops get blown off, and workplaces stay unsafe? Yep, you’re a Republican!

      • etc. all that money? It’s just cuz they’re pals or what?

        • See here, for instance.

          President Bush’s pick for a top Department of Energy post is a former executive from Massey Energy, a company with a lengthy history of mine safety and environmental violations.

          Bush this week nominated Stanley C. Suboleski to be the point person in developing policies related to coal and other fossil fuels.

          Suboleski, who was chief operating officer at Massey from 2001 to 2003, continues to work as an independent consultant with Massey. The company faces an estimated $2.4 billion in threatened federal fines for more than 4,000 alleged U.S. Clean Water Act violations within the past six years at its West Virginia and Kentucky coal operations.

          Suboleski’s nomination to be assistant secretary for fossil energy is drawing fire from environmental and other watchdogs, while the White House defended its decision.

          “Dr. Suboleski is well qualified for this position,” said Blair Jones, a White House spokesman. “He has decades of experience in the energy sector, serving in a number of private and public roles that has included a term on the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, an important health and safety position which the Senate confirmed him for in 2003.”

          The Virginia native was at Massey mines in two states this week and didn’t return phone and e-mail messages from The Associated Press.

          • Republicans? Absolutely shameless.

        • “A Toxic Cover-Up?:  Did Bush Administration Cover Up Environmental Disaster?”

          Who is Jack Spadaro? He’s a man who’s devoted his life to the safety of miners and the safety of people who live near mines.

          He’s an engineer, who until recently was head of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy (MSHA), a branch of the Department of Labor, which trains mining inspectors.

          But he lost that job last year, after he blew the whistle on what he called a whitewash by the Bush administration of an investigation into a major environmental disaster. Correspondent Bob Simon reports.

          I had never seen anything so corrupt and lawless in my entire career as what I saw regarding interference with a federal investigation of the most serious environmental disaster in the history of the Eastern United States,” says Spadaro.

          “I’ve been in government since Richard Nixon. I’ve been through the Reagan administration, Carter and Clinton. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

          What he’s talking about is what he calls a government cover-up of an investigation into a disaster 25 times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.

          • Republicans? What’s absolutely shameless is this pathetic attack on Cuccinelli when he has nothing at all to do with what happened in WEST Virginia.

            You know I defend only when I believe the defending is necessary, and I wish you wouldn’t force me to have to defend Cuccinelli. But I’m not about to sit here and let you exploit this tragedy to score some cheap political points with half truths and spin.

            You should be ashamed of yourself. These men aren’t even buried yet. Have you no sense of decency?

          • …I’m sure they’ll give us an honest, forthright answer. Not.

            As far as the Obama administration is concerned, I presume you’ll join me in calling on them to crack down on these irresponsible, criminal coal companies to the full extent of the law? If Solis et al. haven’t done so to date, she needs to start doing so ASAP!

        • “Why Mine Deaths Are Up”

          The May 20 mine disaster, which killed five coal miners, occurred in Harlan County, Kentucky–infamous for its history of conflict between mine operators and miners. In the 1930s violent strikebusting by Harlan County coal companies against the fledgling United Mine Workers inspired Florence Reese’s union anthem, “Which Side Are You On?”

          The Bush Administration has made it clear which side it is on. Mine workers have faced increasingly unsafe conditions because of rollbacks of health and safety regulations, the appointment of former mining industry executives to federal mine safety agencies and the slashing of the budget and staff for safety inspection.

          The Administration has opposed legislation supported by the United Mine Workers and Democrats in Congress that would require stronger standards on oxygen availability for mine emergencies, mine rescue teams, communications and tracking devices; require immediate notification of accidents and rapid emergency response; set mandatory minimum penalties for egregious and repeated violations; and prohibit the use of dangerous conveyor belts to ventilate work areas.

          The cozy relationship between the Administration and the coal industry is sweetened with campaign dollars. Since 2000 the coal mining industry has contributed $10.7 million to federal campaigns, 88 percent to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

          • that I went after Tim Kaine over his close ties and kowtowing to Dominion  as well. This isn’t a matter of right and left, it’s a matter right and wrong.

          • Mining is high risk, which is always why it is heavily regulated. If this accident was caused by Massey willfully violating the law, then they deserve to be fined and prosecuted as fully as possible. I’m not arguing otherwise.

            I’m not defending Massey. I’m defending the AG who is being smeared by you and Ben for no reason.  

          • TomPaine

            “Coal mining is a high risk high reward job.”

            Yep! The risk goes to the miners and the rewards go to the company!

            I agree with Lowell that mining is a dirty business: environment-wise and employment-wise. However Brian is also right (I find it surprising to believe I am saying this and this may well be the only time I say it) that Cooch and McDonnell cannot yet be blamed for this problem: however Bush and his Labor Secretary Elaine Chao can be blamed for their complicity in covering up and not acting on mine safety violations.

            When I worked for a Republican congressman in 1969, many Republicans actually supported the Coal Mine Safety Act of 1969 (which I was privileged to help write)!

          • on the merits – without resorting to ad hominem attacks, which seems to be the common thread in the comments section of your blog and other right wing blogs.  Defend Cooch on his lawsuits, his anti-environmentalism, his attacks on GLBT people, etc.  And please explain why he gets so much money from this guy.

            I can’t wait.

          • Let’s take these one at a time.

            1. “Smeared” — Cooch is the Attorney General of Virginia, takes large sums of money from Massey, which fascinatingly enough happens to be based in Richmond.  Cooch is also a fanatic anti-environmentalist and anti-worker’s rights Republican, fighting for Massey’s interests by opposing the EPA at every turn. Pure coincidence?  Uh huh.

            2. “For no reason” – In just 3 months in office, Cooch has given us numerous reasons to criticize him and also not to give him the benefit of the doubt in any way, shape or form on anything. The man is singlehandedly – although with Bob McDonnell’s help – turning Virginia into a national laughingstock, and there’s “no reason” to criticize him? Don’t think so.

          • which is, as he writes, that “Massey Energy has a moral obligation to earn as much money as it possibly can.” That’s pretty much antithetical to my progressive value system, which puts people and the environment over profits, especially if the profits are for slimeballs like Blankenship.

          • “Making the most money makes no sense if you’re killing people and opening up your company to multi-million dollar fines and lawsuits. Its both wrong morally and bad business.”

          • Yes, and we all know that Massey isn’t above buying a judge when they need to, in order to make sure that at least some of those lawsuits never see the light of day.

          • this, by PW Conservative?

            Spock

            That capitalist greed keeps your computer running. Coal mining is a high risk high reward job that is filled by consenting individuals – not slaves. It is a tragic situation but these things happen, channell your socialism to helping out those familys instead of talking out your ass.

            Posted by: PWConservative | April 06, 2010 at 09:55 AM

          • Both parties have blood on their hands. It’s a bipartisan disgrace, whether it’s Democrats and Republicans taking huge sums of money from Dominion Power to do their bidding or Republicans and Democrats taking huge sums from Massey Energy to do theirs. American politics at its ugly worst.

          • to make the greatest profits possible, while minimizing liabilities. Violating the law and opening the company up to lawsuits, fines and judicial action does not maximize profits. It cuts into them.

            That’s why any good company follows the law and does its best to minimize its potential liabilities. That cuts into profit.  

      • The Richmonder

        Going back to the Allen/Gilmore administration I suspect that there has been a systematic neglect to enforce laws DMME and DEQ are tasked with enforcing and the Republican governors and attorney generals have been complicit.

        • See here.

          Washington, D.C. — In an agreement announced today, Massey Energy will pay $20 million in fines levied against them by the U.S. EPA for thousands of Clean Water Act permit violations associated with their mining operations. The agreement comes after the federal government found that Massey illegally dumped coal slurry waste, rubble, wastewater and other pollutants into Appalachian waterways.

          “For seven years the Bush administration allowed the coal industry to have its way with West Virginia’s mountains and communities,” said Joe Lovett Attorney with Appalachian Center for the Economy & the Environment. “We’re pleasantly surprised that EPA is taking the first steps to correct the coal industry’s most flagrant abuses.”

          A coalition of environmental groups including Coal River Mountain Watch, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Sierra Club and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, represented by Earthjustice and the Appalachian Center for the Economy & the Environment, sought to intervene in the case, one of the largest Clean Water Act violations cases in the history of the law.

          “If the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, instead of ignoring these blatant Clean Water Act violations, had brought this action itself, this money would be going to state coffers instead of federal,” said Judy Bonds with Coal River Mountain Watch.

          The federal government stepped in to regulate Massey after the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection consistently failed to hold the company accountable for its pollution. During the investigation the federal government documented over 4,600 cases of pollution being illegally dumped into local waters by Massey and its subsidiaries, which operate dozens of mountaintop removal and other large-scale surface mines in Appalachia.

          “It’s unconscionable that West Virginia maintains primacy for the water permitting program when it fails to utilize the basic enforcement tools provided by the Clean Water Act,” said Cindy Rank, Mining Committee Chair of West Virginia Highlands Conservancy. “The West Virginia DEP is responsible for tracking compliance with water permits and taking action against companies when they violate the terms of their permits and yet here are thousands of violations by one company alone that have gone untended. The waterways of West Virginia — and the people who rely on them — deserve more.”

          *In addition to paying the fine Massey will have to take a number of measures aimed at preventing future violations including:

          *Hire independent monitoring consultants

          *Devise a tracking system for future reporting of pollutant discharges

          *Abide by extensive monitoring requirements, with reports to be sent to environmental groups as well as government agencies

          *Internal audits of treatment systems when sampling discharges

          *Additional testing and reporting obligations

          “When citizens complain to DEP about violations and troubles from mountaintop removal sites, the agency ignores us instead of working to protect us,” said Chuck Nelson, a member of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. “Perhaps this action will finally make DEP realize citizen concerns about mountaintop removal are real. Maybe the fine will make Massey stop breaking the law as a routine part of doing business. Now that the federal EPA has smacked DEP for allowing Massey to flagrantly violate the Clean Water Act, the EPA needs to stop the Army Corps of Engineers from illegally issuing valley fill permits.”

          Massey is one of many coal mining companies that use a devastating form of mining known as mountaintop removal mining. The environmental groups won a successful lawsuit in federal court last year challenging five mountaintop removal mining permits approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers that violate federal laws.

          “Massey is now going to pay for their Clean Water Act violations and we are glad the federal EPA is requiring the company to comply with the law,” said Earthjustice attorney Steve Roady. “However, it is inconsistent that EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are actually allowing Massey and other coal companies to violate a different part of the Clean Water Act by blowing the tops off West Virginia’s mountains and burying nearby streams with their waste. As a result, thousands of miles of Appalachian streams have been buried.”

          Massey’s mountaintop removal mines use some of the most environmentally devastating types of mining, flattening the landscape and burying miles of streams. Mountaintop removal mining has already permanently buried more than 1,500 miles of streams and flattened 500,000 acres of mountains in Appalachia.

          “This settlement is a good first step, but to truly protect the people and environment of Appalachia we need to change the way we think about energy,” said Alice McKeown, analyst with the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign. “We need to make sure that coal is mined responsibly, burned cleanly and does not contribute to global warming.”  

    • …that this diary was the #2 recommended diary on Daily Kos this morning, with about 80 recommends and 70 “mojo” points. Looks like there are lots of “ridiculous and petty” progressives who care about peoples’ lives over corporate profits.  

      • I have no idea. They are a Richmond company. They can give money directly to candidates in Virginia. Their federal PAC doesn’t do very much. I also don’t know what they do in Kentucky or West Virginia. Trying to divine why someone gives money is difficult.

        Given the fact that Massey was hit exceedingly hard with millions of dollars worth of fines and penalties during the Bush Administration, I think it’s hard to argue that Republicans go easy on these guys.  

    • The Richmonder

      The Virginia Department of Mines Minerals and Energy (http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/lawsregs/lawsregs.shtml) is responsible for enforcing the Virginia Coal Mine Safety Act (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+TOC45010000014000020000000).  The Office of the Attorney General of Virginia, as the Commonwealth’s law firm, is responsible litigating in support of the DMME and other state agencies to ensure that law are enforced.

      • Given what a great guy Don Blankenship is, I’m sure there was no quid pro quo for that. None at all. Suuuuuuure.

        • That’s environmental regulation.

          http://www.justice.gov/usao/wv

          FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

          December 23, 2008

          In matters prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia:

          LARGEST SETTLEMENT IN COAL INDUSTRY HISTORY

          Massey Energy Subsidiary to Pay $4.2 Million for Violations Resulting in the Death of Two Miners & Numerous Other Violations

          CHARLESTON, WV – Aracoma Coal Company, a subsidiary of Massey Energy, a mining company with extensive operations in West Virginia and other states, has agreed to pay $4.2 million in criminal fines and civil penalties following a long-term investigation conducted by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (“MSHA”) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Charles T. Miller, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, and Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Richard E. Stickler jointly announced the filing of a ten-count information charging Aracoma with nine counts of willful violation of mandatory safety standards, one count resulting in the death of two miners, and with making a false statement.

          Aracoma has agreed to plead guilty to the charges and pay a $2.5 million fine. The company has also agreed to pay a $1.7 million civil settlement for citations issued to Aracoma for violations of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act. The global settlement is the largest financial settlement in the coal industry’s history. Copies of the Information, plea agreement, and civil settlement agreement are attached.

          “Coal is an important part of our nation’s history and future,” stated United States Attorney Charles T. Miller. “I want miners, who often work in potentially dangerous work environments, to be assured that my Office, MSHA, and other federal regulators are committed to vigorously enforcing Federal laws that protect the safety of miners in West Virginia.” We honor the memories of those miners who have paid the ultimate price and we hope their loved ones find reassurance in our continued commitment to prosecute those who willfully violate safety standards,” Miller commented.

          As part of the plea agreement, Aracoma Coal Company admitted its employees removed two permanent ventilation controls in October and November 2005 to allow the installation of a piece of electrical equipment and to improve ventilation in an area containing electrical equipment which had been overheating. The Company further admitted they failed to replace the ventilation controls, also called stoppings, and to provide additional ventilation controls leading to a primary escapeway in the underground mine.

          On January 19, 2006, a fire broke out in the area where the ventilation controls had been removed. Because of Aracoma’s failure to replace the ventilation controls and other safety failures, the ability of 12 miners to escape the fire was significantly impaired due to heavy smoke in the primary escapeway from the fire. Visibility was reduced to zero, even with headlamps. After unsuccessfully trying to leave the mine through the primary escapeway, ten of the 12 miners managed to find their way through the dark to the alternate escapeway. Tragically, two miners were unable to escape and died from suffocation.

          Acting Assistant Secretary Stickler stated: “I am pleased to see a resolution of the criminal and civil cases prompted by the fire at Aracoma Mine nearly three years ago. It reflects the seriousness of the misconduct committed by the mine operator that resulted in two lives lost, and serves both the ends of justice and of mine safety. This outcome should be a reminder to all mine operators of their legal duty to provide their workers with safe and healthful working environments.”

          A plea hearing date has not yet been scheduled.

          • Mine deaths have been dropping for years, and 2006 was an outlier because of two disasters. 2007 was back to normal as 2008.  And we set a record for lowest number of mine related fatalities in 2009. http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coa

          • I have only defended Cuccinelli when I have felt that your attacks have gone to far. And so far that has been once – this time.

            We have no evidence that he has done anything wrong regarding mine safety. I can’t answer why Blankenship has given him so much money, or the other Republicans. You’ll have to ask them.

            I do know that Democrats have just as much authority when it comes to regulating mine and I have yet to see you call out Hilda Solis for not doing her job. Why?  

          • And over at my comments at NLS.  

          • Is it a MORAL imperative or a “fiduciary duty?” Big difference.

      • for mine accidents during the last eight years. They received the largest fine ever for mine safety violations during the Bush Administration – which was also during the Kaine Administration. I don’t recall seeing Tim Kaine out arguing for these guys heads and accusing McDonnell of doing nothing.  

    • …condemning the Bush Administration for using that tragedy to push ITS agenda? I also recall people being bullied back then for suggesting that there might be “root causes” to terrorism and for opposing the invasion of Iraq.  In September 2002, for instance, Bush said, “Democrats are not interested in the security of the American people.” Trent Lott asked, “Who is the enemy here, the president of the United States or Saddam Hussein?”  In 2004, John Thune said about Daschle:

      “His words embolden the enemy,” the Republican, former Representative John Thune, said of Mr. Daschle, referring to the South Dakota senator’s statement in 2003 that he was saddened that Mr. Bush had “failed so miserably at diplomacy that we’re now forced to war.”

      On and on it went. If you were against Bush/Cheney’s agenda post-911, you were basically unpatriotic if not a traitor.  Did you criticize the Bush Administration for politicizing this horrible tragedy? More broadly, why is it ok for Republicans to politicize stuff constantly when it comes to national security, the economy, etc., but it’s horrible if Democrats point out obvious connections between campaign contributions and politicians’ support for bad actors’ agendas?

  • The Richmonder

    Recall, Cooch just took office.  Previously the task of enforcement would have been McDonnell’s, Kilgore’s, and Gilmore’s.  Republicans have a long history of selective law enforcement and they’ve managed to control the AG’s office for going on thirteen years in a row now.

    The DPVA needs to make the AG’s office a focus and educate voters about the dangerous consequences of allowing Republicans to neglect their duties and selectively enforce laws.

  • Yesterday, as soon as I heard about the mine disaster, I went looking for news.  This wasn’t easy, because it was almost immediately after the explosion had occurred (West Virginians have FB like everyone else and mining people have always been good about getting the news out by whatever means necessary.)  The AP and CNN hadn’t broken the story yet.  I went to a newspaper called THE DOMINION POST, which is run out of Morgantown.  It is a paper owned by the powers-that-be in West Virginia, which means it is owned by coal. (Most newspapers are.)  There, on the front page, before the world had heard about this latest disaster, was the headline about how many mines in WV had failed the latest audit on safety.

    I know as well as any West Virginian how dangerous coal mining is.  We know it because every family has lost someone.  (I lost family in the two worst mining explosions in US history, and my grandfather died of black lung.  We KNOW.

    But this is a company that REPEATEDLY violates federal and state safety standards.  They remove walls to protect minrs.  They remove fans.  They would rather keep the coal coming than properly weld a ceiling joist.  Sure, we can fine them, but those fines are a drop in a bucket compared to their profits.  Mine accidents happen.  WE KNOW.  But did this mine accident have to happen?  Probably not.  Was it an accident?  Depends on how you define the term.

    If Republicans want to scream at Democrats, that’s fine with me.  Democrats have plenty of blood on their hands from coal.  And if Democrats want to scream at Republicans, they have twice as much blood on theirs.  I’m not interested in defending either party today.  

    I’m interested in fighting back.

    • At least on this: “I think Massey are a bunch of crooks, and they deserve to be shut down permanently for this.” I also agree with you that the fault here lies in years of coddling of Massey by state and federal authorities, both Democratic and Republican (although Massey gives far, FAR more money to Virginia Republicans than to Virginia Democrats, which is noteworthy). That has to stop.

      • and I don’t like bringing moral questions into it. From a legal standpoint, he has a duty to his shareholders to maximize profits and minimize liability.

        As a human being, I think he has a duty to make his money fairly and not to do engage in activities that harm others to pad his bottom line. So I guess I would say that there is a moral imperative to turn a profit, but there’s an equal imperative to do so in a responsible way. Fortunately, for the most part, the duties here are congruent.

        Making the most money makes no sense if you’re killing people and opening up your company to multi-million dollar fines and lawsuits. Its both wrong morally and bad business.  

  • tx2vadem

    Brian has pointed this out already.  But I did not see that he had referenced the law.  The Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) is charged with enforcing this Act.  There are mine inspectors.  The law specifically lays out their duties and qualifications.  They are subject to similar professional regulations as other occupations.  Mine inspections occur at least annually.  An inspector can shut down the operations of a mine or a section thereof if a violation of the Act has occurred that puts the lives of employees at risk or if an accident has occurred at the mine.  On top of that, miners can request that an inspection be conducted if they observe unsafe conditions and an inspection then has to occur (§ 45.1-161.81).

    The law is also very specific about prosecutions.  § 45.1-161.95. of the code states:

    A. It shall be the duty of every attorney for the Commonwealth to whom the Director or his authorized representative has reported any violation of this Act or on his own initiative to cause proceedings to be prosecuted in such cases.

    B. If the attorney for the Commonwealth declines to cause proceedings to be prosecuted in such cases, the Director or the Chief may request the Attorney General to institute proceedings for any violation of the Act on behalf of the Commonwealth; however, such action shall not preclude the Director or the Chief from pursuing other applicable statutory procedures. Upon receiving such a request from the Director or the Chief, the Attorney General shall have the authority to institute actions and proceedings for violations described in the request.

    Director refers to the head of DMME.  Chief refers to the head of the Division of Mines in the DMME.

    You can look at the inspection reports for Knox Creek Coal Corp online at the Division of Mines’ site.  It’s all public information.  They appear to have corrected all of their violations in a timely manner as specified by the Division of Mines.  If you feel like the operations there are unsafe and DMME is not doing its job, it would be best to address that with DMME.  Or you could also call or email the Commonwealth Attorney in Tazwell and ask him why he hasn’t done anything.  His name is Dennis Lee, contact information here.