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Mine Safety Violation Discrepancies

Questions are being raised about the discrepancies between state and federal citations issued to the Harlan County Darby Mine, before a 2006 explosion killed five miners.

Some say federal officials issued more than seven times the amount of citations as state officials, in a two and a half year time span.

While the events of May 20th, 2006...took five lives inside the Darby Number One mine...
A recent Louisville Courier-Journal article...examining the two and half years prior to the mine's explosion...found some discrepancies between state and federal inspections...

"The fact is, MSHA issued 33 accumulation violations in a 2 1/2 year period, and the state issued 0," says Tony Oppegard, Mine Safety Advocate and Legal Representative of several Darby widows.
"It does raise a red flag."

The article says a state inspector cited the Darby mine only 10 times in five visits, beginning in January of 2004...
While the federal inspectors issued 148 citations during 10 inspections over the same time period...
That's seven times more citations per visit...

"The state and federal inspectors have generally the same duties. Now there are different laws, but the laws are very similar." says Oppegard.

"There's many violations that are technically violation of the law, but in and of themselves, pose no danger to the individual miner." says Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Caylor.

"There are things within a mine that are under federal jurisdiction, instead of state, such as dust control levels, and that may account for some of it." says Chuck Wolfe of the state's Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet.

Wolfe went on to say his agency has full confidence in their state inspectors.

Again, all citations described in this story were given prior to the May explosion...which state investigators say was caused when open flame torches sparked a preventable methane leak.
Federal officials say their investigation of the explosion is ongoing.


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