Mine Owner, Safety Agency Face Federal Inquiry
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
NPR's Howard Berkes has been covering this story. He's on the line in Beckley, West Virginia. Howard, good morning.
HOWARD BERKES: Good morning.
INSKEEP: What exactly are federal investigators looking into here?
BERKES: We're getting all this, by the way, from sources who are close to the investigation. The FBI is declining to comment, and they won't confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.
INSKEEP: And just to be fair, to underline this, you're using words like possible and unsubstantiated, but what you're saying is that federal investigators have found something serious enough that they want to look into this in a criminal probe. Is that...
BERKES: We have to presume that that's the case. Yes. But we don't have any solid information about what the violations, possible violations, may exactly be beyond what I've said.
INSKEEP: So what have the Mine Safety and Health Administration and Massey Energy said?
BERKES: The Mine Safety and Health Administration is aware of our reporting. They haven't reported so far. Massey Energy, in a statement to NPR, says it is not aware of these allegations and it is fully cooperating with any investigations that are taking place.
INSKEEP: You said that it's common to have allegations or suspicions of bribery involving inspectors. But is it common to have a criminal probe after a disaster like this?
BERKES: Here we're barely three weeks since the accident and FBI agents are already out in the Cold River Valley here interviewing people. We actually stumbled upon one of those interviews this week. A miner that we were trying to talk to said he couldn't talk because the FBI was there. This is an indication of very serious allegations that might be out there. Again, we don't know exactly what they are, but they've triggered FBI interest. There may be no criminal charges eventually. We'll just have to wait and see.
INSKEEP: NPR's Howard Berkes is in Beckley, West Virginia. Howard, thanks very much for your reporting.
BERKES: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: And again, Howard is reporting that the deadly mine explosion in West Virginia three weeks ago is now the subject of a federal criminal investigation.
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