Following Meeting With Labor Secretary, Durbin Calls on Peabody Energy to Explain Safety Violations at Willow Lake Mine
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today called on the Chairman and CEO of Peabody Energy to explain what steps the company is taking to improve safety and reduce violations of mine safety standards at Willow Lake mine near Equality, IL. Earlier, Durbin spoke with the Secretary of the Department of Labor, Hilda Solis, about the agency’s decision to expedite a hearing to review several “significant and substantial” safety violations that are being contested by the company.
“According to MSHA, Willow Lake has been cited several times for significant and substantial violations that threaten the safety of coal miners,” Durbin wrote. “In your press release responding to MSHA’s decision, you stress a ‘commitment to safety’ and highlight your goal of reaching zero incidents at your facilities. It is with this shared goal in mind that I request an update on your efforts to improve mine safety in Illinois.”
The Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued 12 citations since late 2008 involving the Willow Lake mine which is owned by Peabody Energy. These violations include the company's failure to provide adequate protection from potential mine collapses and prevent excessive accumulations of combustible materials, like coal dust, that many believe could have contributed to the recent coal mine accident at Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.
On May 5, Durbin sent a letter to Illinois Department of Natural Resources requesting data and information on how well Illinois coal companies are complying with current safety standards. While reiterating the importance of the coal industry in Illinois and the critical need for safety standard compliance, he requested the information as Congress weighs federal standards and enforcement of mine safety law.
Text of the letter appears below:
June 15th, 2010
Gregory H. Boyce
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
701 Market St.
St. Louis, MO 63101
Dear Chairman Boyce:
In light of citations by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) at Willow Lake mine and MSHA’s subsequent decision to expedite its consideration, I am writing to ask what steps you are taking to improve safety and reduce violations of mine safety standards at Willow Lake and other Illinois mines.
According to MSHA, Willow Lake has been cited several times for significant and substantial violations that threaten the safety of coal miners. In your press release responding to MSHA’s decision, you stress a “commitment to safety” and highlight your goal of reaching zero incidents at your facilities. It is with this shared goal in mind that I request an update on your efforts to improve mine safety in Illinois.
As you know, the coal industry has played a significant role in Illinois history and is vital to our economy. In 2008, 18 coal mines produced over 34 million tons of coal with just 3,467 employees. It is clear that the 21st century Illinois coal miner is highly skilled and productive worker. However, as we have been reminded by recent accidents in West Virginia and Kentucky, mining remains a dangerous profession, and we all must work to ensure our miners have a safe workplace.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter. I look forward to your response.
Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator
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