Kentucky Coal Calls Federal Lawsuit "Draconian Action"

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The President of the Kentucky Coal Association is closely monitoring the situation between the federal government and Massey Energy. Bill Bissett's organization is still reviewing the court documents filed Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Labor seeking to close a mine in Pike County over safety violations.

"Our concern is MSHA is really tasked to work with the mining industry, with coal miners, with coal mine operators, to create a safe mine, to make our mines as safe as they possibly can be. And this kind of Draconian action is an extraordinary one because to our knowledge this has never happened before."

Bissett says it's too early for Kentucky Coal to formulate a specific response to the lawsuit against Massey, but says all of the organization's member companies will be keeping up with proceedings.

Bissett says the injunction request may lead to a review of the 2010 Miner Safety Act.

"One of the things I'm finding interesting here is during the testimony from MSHA with the miner act, it was said that they did not have the legal authority to close a coal mine, yet here they're taking this very action. So there may actually be an aspect of this entire situation which will cause us to have to go back to the law, see what the statutes actually say and get a better understanding of kind of what is their scope of punishment, let's say, in this case.

The Department of Labor has never sought a court order to shut down a mine, but said in its filing Wednesday the move is necessary to protect the lives of miners. Massey Energy also owns the West Virginia coal mine where 29 workers died in April.