Editorial - Mine safety should continue to progress
Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2012 00:03
The coal industry is crucial to West Virginia’s economy. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, coal supplies more than half of our nation’s electricity. Coal has been West Virginia’s number one export for more years than most want to count, and it is truly embedded in our culture.
While the industry is lucrative, there is no doubt that it is dangerous. Through the years, efforts have been made to improve industry standards, but an alarming number of mining accidents occur every year.
To many West Virginian miners traveling down the mantrips everyday, the risks involved are taken in stride and these miners do their jobs to support their families.
Wednesday, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin celebrated the signing of new legislation that will create stricter mining regulations. The bill encourages miners to report unsafe conditions, requires each mine’s top on-site official to sign on safety logs regularly and targets methane gas and coal dust levels.
As future generations of Mountain State miners continue the tradition of keeping America’s lights on, legislatures should continue to make the industry safer for them to do so.
The upgraded safety standards come nearly two years after the Upper Branch Mine disaster, which occurred on April 5, 2010 and killed 29 Massey Energy miners. The legislation answers some of the problems that caused the tragedy.
According to the official "Report to the Governor," which was finished in May 2011, the accident was blamed on Massey Energy and the Mine Safety and Health Administration for ignoring federal regulations.
"The company broke faith with its workers by frequently and knowingly violating the law and blatantly disregarding known safety practices while creating a public perception that its operations exceeded industry safety standards," the report said.
Hopefully, the legislation passed will make a difference regarding safety. Even if the number of accidents reduces, federal oversight in the coal should continue to create a safer work place.
The authors of the Upper Branch Mine report said it best.
"We have done so in this report, again with the genuine hope that reforms can be instituted and that the Upper Big Branch disaster is the last coal mining disaster ever in this country. However, we offer these recommendations with reservation. We have seen similar reports, written with the same good intent, gathering dust on the bookshelves of the national Mine Health and Safety Academy."