Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Mountain Eagle still screams, now at MSHA

While the country waits for the results of a Mine Safety and Health Administration investigation into the cause of the explosion that killed 29 West Virginia coal miners last week, and a meeting between MSHA Director Joe Main and Presudent Obama tomorrow, no one close to the industry needs any more information to understand why miners die, writes one Appalachian newspaper.

"They die because of negligence," The Mountain Eagle of Whitesburg, Ky., says in an editorial. "They die because the company they work for cares more about running coal than making mines safe. And they die because the federal agency that is charged with protecting them fails in its mission."

The Eagle writes that the safety record of Massey Energy, owner of the Upper Big Branch Mine, has been receiving much attention since the explosion for good reason, but MSHA deserves its share of scorn as well. Too often MSHA has relied on easily appealable penalties as its enforcement technique instead of its power to halt production until violations are fixed, the Eagle writes: "When production stops, profit stops. And it’s that power that MSHA has failed to use to the full extent provided by law."

"Coal miners shouldn’t have to accept safety violations to earn a living," Tony Oppegard, a veteran mine-safety advocate and former MSHA enforcement lawyer, told the Eagle, which says: "If that simple message ever sinks in at MSHA – with or without regulatory changes – we’ll be on our way to a new era of responsibility and accountability. Until then, miners will die from negligence." (Read more)

West Virginia native Betty Dotson-Lewis has also written a thorough examination of the ever-present fear West Virginians face in regard to mine safety for the Daily Yonder.

No comments: