Senator Manchin Statement on MSHA’s UBB Report
Full text of Manchin’s floor speech on Upper Big Branch developments available below
***Pathfire, FTP, Audio Available***
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Joe Manchin today issued the following statement about the investigation of the Mine Safety and Health Administration into the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.
“Words can’t describe how disturbing it is that this tragedy could have been prevented – and all of the official reports that have been issued in this investigation agree on that point. What is clear from these findings is that these mistakes are totally unacceptable and should never be repeated,” Senator Manchin said. “With an independent report and a federal report now confirming that this could have been prevented, my commitment is to work across party lines to find meaningful mine reform that prioritizes worker safety and makes sure that no company puts profits ahead of the precious lives of our people.
“At the crux of everything 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.”
Senator Manchin also delivered a speech marking the landmark settlement between the Department of Justice and Alpha Natural Resources, as well as National Miner’s Day.
Senator Manchin’s remarks are available on Pathfire. Directions for accessing Pathfire can be found here: http://democrats.senate.gov/tv/pathfire/manchin.pdf
Audio can be found here: manchin 120611.mp3
Full text of his remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
“I rise today to mark a truly important day for my state, and indeed this entire nation.
“December 6 is National Miner’s Day, a time when we stop to honor our nation’s coal miners and remember those who have done so much to make this country what we are today. These brave men and women work every day to meet the challenge of keeping our great nation free and strong, and although the history of mining has been marked by hardship and tragedy, the bravery of our miners has never faltered.
“It is so fitting that today we also learned – just this morning – of a landmark settlement of more than $200 million in one of the worst mining tragedies our state has faced.
“On April 5, 2010, 29 miners lost their lives in the Upper Big Branch mine, which was then owned by Massey Energy. Today, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, Mr. Booth Goodwin, announced an agreement with Alpha Natural Resources, the company that purchased the Massey mines.
“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 – ever replace – the beloved miners who we lost that terrible day, today’s agreement shows 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 a 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 their shift to kiss them goodnight.
“I thank U.S. Attorney Goodwin and his entire team for their skill and dedication in negotiating this settlement that focuses on safety and training in the future. 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 impede the families from pursuing additional civil remedies and 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 Upper Big Branch.
“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.
“Also today we remember the 104th anniversary of the Monongah Mine tragedy, which is our nation’s worst mining tragedy – one that took 362 brave souls that we could account for, and it is told that many more were lost.
“So on this day, it is fitting to pay our respects and show appreciation for the miners of yesterday and today. We need to recognize the contributions of past miners who have led us to where we are now, and today’s miners who keep traveling deep into the darkness to provide millions of Americans with the electricity that powers our lives and the steel with which we build our nation.
“Without these men and women, our world would look very different. They are the true backbone of our country. Our miners extracted the coal that powered military ships in World War I and World War II – and every conflict since.
“Coal provided the steel to make our country the greatest industrial power in the world, ushering in prosperity that built our infrastructure and developed a quality of life that became and is still the envy of the world. Coal provides nearly half of the electricity in our country and every day, millions of homes are warm, safe and full of light thanks to coal.
“Think for a moment. Try to imagine our country if we did not have coal. It is almost inconceivable.
“Coal is mined all over our great nation. I thank all men and women everywhere who work in this industry, but I can speak personally about our brave and hardworking miners in West Virginia. The miners of West Virginia and their families are the heart and soul of the Mountain State and truly an inspiration for me.
“Extracting minerals from the earth is not for the faint of heart. This work requires engineering brilliance, nerves of steel and fearless dedication. West Virginia coal miners continue to set the bar for productivity, quality, and innovation. Their work ethic is second to none. Coal miners are not looking for a handout – never have – all they want is a work permit so they can go to work, earn a good wage, and provide for their families.
“And coal miners are much more than just the work that they do – they are some of the most loyal, brave, trusted, and patriotic folks that you could ever meet. Like their fellow West Virginians, these folks can shake your hand, look into your eyes, and touch your heart. Our coal miners love their families, the outdoors, their communities and their state. These miners work hard every shift, but if they get home and find a person in need, their day just begins again. If you are hungry, you will be fed; if you are lost, you will get the correct directions and then they’ll say, ‘Just follow me, I’ll get you there.’ That’s just the kind of people we are, and that makes me so proud every day to be a West Virginian and have the honor of representing them.
“I will continue to tell our state’s story when it comes to coal. And I will constantly work with my colleagues on both sides of aisle to develop technology that allows us to continue to use American coal to help achieve energy independence for our great country – which will ensure our national security and grow our economy. The simple fact is this: This country needs coal and our coal miners are still willing to do the job.
“So today, it is my privilege to say ‘thank you’ for the job that our brave coal miners perform. This nation was built on the backs of our coal miners, and all of us should thank them not only today, but every single day of the year.”
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