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Posted: 7:57 PM- A Senate subcommittee issued a subpoena Friday to Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy and co-owner of the Crandall Canyon mine, where six miners died in a collapse August 6 and three men died in a rescue attempt.
The subpoena compels Murray to appear at a hearing on the mine disaster before the Senate labor appropriations subcommittee. The hearing is set for Dec. 4, after Congress returns from its Thanksgiving recess.
Attempts to reach a Murray Energy representative after business hours Friday were unsuccessful.
Murray did not appear at a Sept. 5 subcommittee hearing on the mine disaster and members met on Oct. 4 to authorize the subpoena, but did not issue it until Friday.
"We're going to get to the bottom of what went on there," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the ranking Republican on the subcommittee. "Murray is an indispensable witness, and, candidly, he really flouted the responsibility and authority of the United States Senate to have his testimony to find out what happened so we could do our utmost to prevent future occurrences."
At its September hearing, committee members indicated they wanted to ask Murray about the type of mining being done at Crandall Canyon, why he took center stage in post-disaster briefings, why he took reporters and photographers into the mine during dangerous rescue efforts, and whether he had used his political connections in the past to influence the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
In the weeks following the Aug. 6 collapse at Crandall Canyon, Murray seized the spotlight, becoming the face of the collapse and rescue effort. He conducted long, rambling televised briefings and media interviews, on at least one occasion in miners' garb, including a headlamp.
Murray insisted an earthquake caused the collapse, that the company had not changed the mine plan, and that there was no retreat mining being done - a practice in which coal pillars supporting the mine are cut away, allowing the roof to fall in. All of the statements have been called into question, if not disproved.
Behind the scenes, his abrasiveness in dealing with victims' family members prompted MSHA director Richard Stickler to ask the Emery County sheriff to bar Murray from the family briefings.
After a second collapse during the rescue attempt on Aug. 16, Murray's health deteriorated and he was not seen for several days.
The company has pointed out that Murray worked himself to exhaustion during the 23-day rescue effort, and spared no expense or effort in attempts to rescue the trapped miners.