December 06, 2011

Manchin Statement on $209 Million Upper Big Branch Settlement

Washington, D.C.  – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) released the following statement today about the historic $209 million Corporate Criminal Resolution between the U.S. Department of Justice and Alpha Natural Resources in connection with the Upper Big Branch mining tragedy. 

“This comprehensive and forward-looking settlement takes the right steps to truly protect our miners. By investing more than $120 million in mine safety – including improvements to existing mines, a new West Virginia safety training facility and a research trust – this agreement demonstrates that the government and the company are serious about creating a true legacy of mine safety. While nothing can replace the beloved miners who we lost that terrible day, criminal restitution is an appropriate recognition of the fact that we all have zero tolerance for anything corporations do – or don’t do – that leads to a mine fatality. 

“As I have always said, at the heart of this tragedy is the simple fact that we must do everything in our power to never, ever allow any worker to be in the position where this could happen to them or their family. Especially since today is National Miner’s Day, my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the 29 miners who died at Upper Big Branch – and I want to assure the families that the loss of their loved ones will not be in vain. Every worker should know that when they kiss their children goodbye in the morning that they will return home at the end of the day to kiss them goodnight. 

“I thank the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, Booth Goodwin, and his entire team for their skill and dedication in this investigation and prosecution. I applaud their vision and attention to detail in securing this historic agreement that focuses on safety and training. I also thank Alpha Natural Resources for rising to this occasion and meeting these terms. Even though Alpha did not own the Upper Big Branch mine at the time of the disaster, I applaud the company for taking responsibility for both the mistakes that were made and for investing in the future of mining to help prevent another tragedy like this from ever taking place. I encourage them – and all our mining companies – to continue to take steps to protect our miners.

“In addition, I am pleased that this agreement does not prevent the authorities from prosecuting individuals whose actions may warrant criminal charges. There should be no immunity for anyone who is determined to be responsible in any way for the tragedy at UBB. 

“April 5, 2010 was one of our state’s most heartbreaking days. I hope and pray that we will never again endure a tragedy like the Upper Big Branch deaths, and I will work every day to make sure that we don’t.”