Mine Safety and Health Administration boss Joe Main continues to stand pat in his belief that MSHA could not have prevented the April 2010 explosion at Upper Big Branch that took the lives of 29 coal miners.

The evidence to the contrary continues to mount.

An expert panel of mine safety staff representing another federal government agency, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), did point a finger of culpability at MSHA last week.

In essence the NIOSH staff has raised the position that a more effective enforcement of ventilation and coal dust standards by MSHA at UBB could have prevented the tragedy.

We continue to assert our belief that the responsibility lies with multiple people, companies and agencies. The mine’s owner at the time, Massey Energy, various employees, inspectors from MSHA and the state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training, all had a role, albeit to varying degrees.

But for MSHA to continue to stick to its position that it couldn’t have stopped it again signals to us the agency is simply in denial.

And that is nothing short of being disrespectful to those brave souls who perished in Montcoal nearly two years ago.

The former mine superintendent at UBB has now pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government. He will be sentenced in August. The former UBB security chief was found guilty by a jury of lying to investigators probing the tragedy. But those are just two in what has to be a long line of those who were responsible in one way or another.

Again, we stress the need for the U.S. Attorney to make certain that the accountability and punishments that are meted out run the entire gamut, no matter who they are or who they work, or worked, for.

Then, and only then, can we be certain that justice has been achieved.

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