Monday, May 23, 2011


The first of several reports on last year's coal mine explosion at Upper Big Branch in West Virginia, the worst in 40 years, is out. This one is probably the most important for it was made by a group of independent safety experts.

As news reports indicated this disaster--which killed 29 miners--was "man made" and could have been prevented.

Could there be a more damning conclusion?

While the mine owners, Massey Coal, receive the lion's share of blame, Congress and the government are also severely criticized. Take this from an Associated Press report on how that mine practiced safety..."..the safety inspector who was supposed to file pre-shift reports on air and methane readings did so weeks before the blast without ever turning on his gas detector."

But the report also said much of the blame fell to MSHA..the federal Mine Safety & Health Administration..calling the blast.."proof positive the agency failed in its duty as the watchdog for coal miners."

While there is guilt enough to spread around, if Coal..the industry itself--does not accept some measure of responsibility...a great opportunity will be lost...and more miners will die.

Coal has those lovely national TV ads airing about how important coal is to America, especially for electricity generation..true. It also claims Coal is clean. I have yet to see any industry projects in this area. What has the industry done in the way of research projects to make coal clean?

Some of my 110% environmental friends think coal can never be clean. I disagree; it can be clean-er..and it desperately needs to be. We depend too much on it. Massey and its ilk, it is not alone in stressing production over human safety, give the lie to those rosy industry ads.

Coal, as an industry, needs to tell the world that operating as Massey has done for years is no longer acceptable..that people rank higher than production..that safety will be stressed..and together with Congress Coal will support stronger safety rules (not oppose them as it has done for years),and seek the necessary funds, both private and public, for projects that will make coal cleaner...but above all, safer.

I'm just sayin'...

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