Saturday, April 10, 2010

loosey goosey coal mining regulations

The safety regulations of coal mining is perhaps as horrifying as its environmental impact. The recent West Virginia coal mine explosion (that left no survivors) shines light on limp violation-reduction policies that keep dangerous coal mines up and running.
[T]he mine had received 204 violations that were deemed serious and significant over the previous two years, well above average...Since the start of 2009, the records show, the mine had at least 50 notices of problems that Massey knew existed but failed to correct. more
Why didn't a pattern of violations warrant closure of the mine?

Officials of the mine safety agency said that they were bound by the current regulations, which require them to issue warning letters, and that if companies successfully reduce their rate of violations by 30 percent, they are not to be found to have a pattern of violations...Companies can escape the added oversight even if they continue to be worse than the national average. more

and coal companies rigorously appeal their citations:

Massey appealed at least 37 of the 50 citations for serious safety violations that it received last year...At a hearing in February, Representative George Miller, Democrat of California, complained that the growing number of appeals by coal companies threatened to “render the federal efforts to hold mine operators accountable meaningless.” Mining safety experts have expressed similar concerns. more

Seems like appealing citations is the least offensive defense tactic on Massey's list. Massey CEO Don Blankenship

poured in $3 million, to unseat a justice he expected would rule against Massey in a lawsuit. It was so much money, his strategy backfired. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the newly elected state justice was too tainted by Blankenship's money to rule on the case. more

If you're a frequent reader of The Colonic, Massey Energy might sound familiar. Recall that in September of 2009, Massey and Verizon teamed up and threw an anti-environmental hoopla at the West Virginia coal mine to rally against the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

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