Thin Line Between Stupid and Clever

Opining on Whatever

Soul for Coal, ctd.

The Charleston Gazette has done a wonderful job covering the recent coal mining disaster in West Virginia.  Today’s editorial focuses on the safety of that mine and surprise, surprise, profit was put ahead of safety:

Federal safety inspectors cited the Raleigh County operation thousands of times for dangerous law violations, including buildup of explosive methane and coal dust. But Massey avoided closure of the profitable mine by snarling the U.S. bureaucracy with endless legal appeals. Lifesaving enforcement apparently was obstructed.

While Massey Energy’s tooth and nail fight against increased regulation should be deplored, the federal government must take its share of the blame as well.  It’s not as if they were unaware of the problem.  In June 2009, David Arkush of Public Citizen provided the following warning to the Obama White House:

Every day that these safety violations go unresolved, the chance that this nation will see another tragic mining accident grows.

Coal mining specifically and mining in general is a dangerous job.  Miners accept a certain amount of risk the day they accept the job.  However, they deserve to work in a mine that has been made as safe as possible and that is regulated in an effective manner.  This was clearly not the case with the Upper Big Branch mine as Massey Energy was able to legally tie up an obviously overmatched regulatory system.  While the fines for violations were increased in 2006, there has not been a serious overhaul of the fed’s oversight of mine safety since the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.  As Mr. Arkush warned:

Congress rightly passed stricter mining safety regulations in 2006, but new rules and fines are useless if they are not enforced.

Too bad he had to be proven right.

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