Panel reinstates penalties for Sago mine explosion

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 14, 2014 at 12:29 pm •  Published: January 14, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A federal review panel has reinstated $14,500 in penalties proposed by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration against a coal company for violations involving the 2006 Sago Mine explosion that killed 12 workers.

The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission overturned an administrative law judge's 2010 ruling that reduced the penalties against Wolf Run Mining Co., an International Coal Group subsidiary, to $11,000. The commission assessed the original penalties proposed by MSHA.

MSHA announced the commission's December decision on Tuesday.

MSHA had proposed a $13,000 penalty for Wolf Run's failure to immediately summon mine rescue teams to the Upshur County mine following the explosion and for the company's failure to comply with the mine's emergency evacuation and firefighting program. The agency designated both violations as "high negligence." The failure to comply with the emergency plan also was designated as "an unwarrantable failure."

MSHA also cited the mine for failing to immediately notify it immediately following the explosion and designated the violation as "high negligence." The agency proposed a $1,500 penalty for this violation.

Administrative Law Judge Jerold Feldman had affirmed the violations but reduced the negligence designations from high to moderate, vacated the "unwarrantable failure" designation, and reduced the penalties.

The commission's decision said Feldman incorrectly determined when Wolf Run had a duty to notify MSHA and mine rescue teams. Feldman also incorrectly treated the delay as a mitigating factor instead of an aggravating factor.