Friday, May 26, 2006

Mining Disaster Tipping Point?

The latest mining disaster, this time in Kentucky, caused the deaths of five more miners. Once again, the mine in question was run by a company with a rap sheet, but it was still operating. Congress has finally decided to do something about the issue, according to an editorial in today's NY Times.

Another mine disaster is finally spurring Congress to pass long overdue repairs to the nation's threadbare safety laws. Mandates for such obvious necessities as extra oxygen supplies for trapped miners languished after an initial burst of concern over the disaster in January that killed 12 miners in Sago, W.Va. But the explosion last weekend in Kentucky that killed five miners has been followed by quick Senate approval of a bill ordering extra oxygen, more responsive rescue teams, and stronger underground barriers to seal off danger zones from workers.

The Republican leaders in the House, lagging behind the Senate, hurried to catch up. But the sad truth is that safety equipment and rescue procedures have been scandalously neglected for years under company-friendly regulations that have been laxly enforced by government agencies stocked with political appointees who have come from the coal industry.
[Emphasis added]

During the last six months there have also been mine accidents in Canada and Australia. Both incidents ended well, as miners in those countries had access to safe rooms and oxygen. Those men walked away. Thirty or so miners in this country did not fare so well. The Times article was correct in its assessment of the US problem. The voluntary compliance program (i.e., "the insane asylum was run by the inmates") hasn't worked so well, and the crony-packed MSHA hasn't seemed to care. The Senate, perhaps because it is an election year, has finally decided to do something about it.

Unfortunately, the House doesn't seem quite as concerned with saving lives. It is considering a different kind of bill:

The Senate bill only begins to repair the problem. But it is preferable to pro-industry proposals in the House to require drug testing for miners — as if the victims, not government and industry, were to blame for miners' highest death rate in 20 years.



Post a Comment

<< Home