Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New York Times says this Congress has a lousy record on coal mine safety

Congress has "shamefully shirked" its responsibility for coal mine safety, The New York Times says in an editorial today. "Nine American miners have been killed in eight little-noted accidents since April, when an explosion in rural West Virginia left 29 dead," the newspaper writes. "Lawmakers, claiming to be scandalized by the failures in safety enforcement, vowed sweeping reforms. That’s all they’ve done."

The editorial points to the recent Labor Department inspector general's report, which revealed no serial violator had ever faced the maximum penalty allowed under the first federal mine-safety law 40 years ago, as proof of Washington's failure. "Instead, a rope-a-dope regulatory process has let companies game enforcement through years of violation appeals," the Times argues. It says the Obama administration's move to tighten enforcement is a positive step, but "more is needed from Congress if mine safety is to advance convincingly beyond 1969."

The editorial touches on other coal issues. "The White House has rightly committed itself to new initiatives to regulate and, we hope, eventually end the ruinous practice known as mountaintop mining," it says. But those initiatives are being challenged by the industry and the Democratic governors of Kentucky and West Virginia, the No. 3 and No. 2 coal-producing states. "Meanwhile, the Upper Big Branch mine victims are poised to slip off into history where they will join the 78 who perished in the big Farmington disaster of 1968, and the 38 killed in the Hurricane Creek disaster two years later," the Times concludes. "When does it end?" (Read more)

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