Friday, April 14, 2006

Coal Miner Deaths: "This is grotesque."

The Charleston Gazette is angry that 2006 coal mine fatalities already exceed the total number of coal miner deaths for all of 2005.
This is grotesque. West Virginia mustn’t return to the evil days when scores, even hundreds, of miner lives were lost in bringing coal out of the ground.
And the paper's editors think they know what the problem is.
It seems at least possible that West Virginia’s deadly upsurge is related to cutbacks in federal mine safety efforts by the Bush administration. As we’ve noted before, the White House has sought to slash the budget of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, and has sought to raise levels of coal dust breathed by miners. MSHA has promised “cooperative” safety enforcement, meaning weaker rules and policing.

Political appointees to MSHA by the administration generally are industry officials sympathetic to mine owners. Incredibly, one such MSHA chief led his aides in walking out of a January congressional hearing on mine safety.

Enforcers are supposed to enforce safety laws — not find ways to minimize them. As West Virginia’s death toll keeps climbing, MSHA must be pressured to crack down on mine hazards with all the severity the law allows.