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Mine Safety Advocate Tony Oppegard '80 in In These Times

Wednesday, August 8, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Max Rodriguez
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Mine safety advocate Tony Oppegard '80 was quoted in In These Times offering several explanations for why mine operators knowingly cause or maintain safety problems.

From In These Times: "Tony Oppegard, a former mine safety prosecutor in Kentucky who has also helped individual miners bring cases against employers, has some idea why companies cheat. After spending decades challenging the industry's fierce resistance to regulation, he says, "The industry's top priority is making money. And they don't want safety to stand in the way of profits.” 

Oppegard speculates that had MSHA had more expansive subpoena powers prior to the Massey explosion, it could have helped avert disaster, "because if any miner had come into the MSHA office and said, 'They're making us do X, Y and Z up at the Upper Big Branch Mine, then MSHA could have subpoenaed supervisors, the safety director, etc. and investigated these allegations, which maybe would have prevented a disaster from occurring in the first place." 

Under current laws, Oppegard says, even if violations are eventually uncovered, lower-level managers might end up getting the brunt of the punishment:

The problem with [the law] right now is that you're not really going after the people who are responsible for creating the unsafe conditions in the first place. You're going after the poor shmuck who's got to document the hazardous conditions in the record book. And he's probably been told by the company, ‘We don't want you writing anything in the book that shows violations."

Read the full article in In These Times, "Two Years After Fatal Disaster, Push to Protect Coal Miners Wears On"

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