Two groups have been named to investigate the explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia that killed 29 miners. The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration has appointed the district manager in charge of the Upper Big Branch mine to run its investigation, a decision that has brought protests from some mine safety advocates. West Virginia has appointed former MSHA chief Davitt McAteer to run its investigation. Meanwhile, two major shareholders have asked Massey CEO Don L. Blankenship to resign, a suggestion rejected by Massey board member Bobby Inman, a former Navy admiral and former acting dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.
The Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward also reported that federal and state inspectors had been concerned with ventilation at the mine in the months before the explosion. (Ventilation is required to sweep methane gas out of underground mines; methane exploded at the Upper Big Branch mine.) Mine personnel said they knew of problems with the mine’s ventilation. Mine managers told workers “not to worry” about these problems, according to notes taken by an MSHA inspector.
In other rural news, the Senate’s ranking Republican on the education committee said the Obama administration’s education policy wouldn’t work in rural America. “I am very concerned that requiring school districts to use one of the four school turnaround models for schools identified for school improvement will adversely affect rural and frontier schools,” said Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi (above). “Let me be clear that I am not proposing to give rural and frontier schools a free pass. Strategies mandated from Washington will simply not solve the problems facing these schools.”