Editor's Note

The FOI Advocate is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. We will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Could Better FOIA Response Have Averted the Massey Energy Mine Disaster?

A January 2010 inspection report covering the Massey Energy Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia shows a federal safety inspector saw a flawed ventilation system and was told "not to worry about it," reports The Huffington Post. The company was fined $70,000 for an "unwarrantable failure" to follow safety rules. The Charleston Gazette's Ken Ward Jr. first reported about the documents, which weren't released by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) until more than a week after the April mine explosion.

The timing leaves journalists wondering if a more transparent MSHA could have averted the mine disaster. The Huffington Post reports how Ellen Smith, the managing editor of the Mine Safety and Health News newsletter, used to praise MSHA for its freedom of information work until the Bush administration used the 9/11 attacks as a reason to clamp down on information. Despite the Obama administration's emphasis on improved transparency, Smith thinks disclosure has gotten worse under Obama.

Read more here.

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