Upper Big Branch Mine Superintendent Gary May has been accused this morning in a criminal information of conspiracy, falsifying examination records, giving advanced notice of MSHA inspections, and ordering methane monitor tampering.
The charges were filed in U.S. District Court in Beckley, W.Va., by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Ruby.
Methane monitor tampering was first reported in June 2010 when UBB miners Ricky Lee Campbell, Chris Meadows, George Holtzapfel, Clay Mullins and Chuck Nelson publicly talked about methane monitoring tampering with several news organizations (17 MSHN 335).
UBB miner Clay Mullins told Howard Berkes and Frank Langfit of NPR that he was under the belief that if a methane monitor malfunctioned that miners could bridge it out until parts were available to fix it. While the methane monitor did not work, Mullins believed that a hand-held monitor could be substituted as long as methane checks were made every 15 minutes. Nowhere in the regulations is this a permissible substitute.
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