Editorial - Protecting our coal miners
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 00:01
The West Virginia Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety met Tuesday and was widely expected to pass a rule regulating methane levels in West Virginia coal mines. However, the rule was not passed due to the absences of three members, which prevented a quorum from being met.
The rule is still expected to pass. The Daily Athenaeum editorial board certainly hopes the passage and implementation of this regulation is not further delayed.
The proposed rule would require the shutdown of mines that maintained a methane concentration of 1.25 percent for an extended period of time (the exact time has not yet been determined).
High levels of methane can lead to explosions. The 2010 Upper Big Branch tragedy that left 29 coal miners dead is believed to have been caused by methane.
Massey Energy, which has since been acquired by Alpha Natural Resources, was found to have willfully disregarded existing regulations regarding methane levels in its coal mines. A report commissioned by then Gov. Joe Manchin concluded that the disaster was "man-made" and "could have been prevented, had Massey Energy followed basic, well-tested and historically proven safety procedures." Investigators who helped formulate this report found methane detectors in Massey-operated mines were often turned off. They also discovered cases in which fake readings were recorded to conceal the fact the monitors were not turned on.
The Upper Big Branch tragedy provides all the justification that is needed for the adoption of tighter methane regulations. It is now up to the West Virginia Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety to do its job and take this important step toward protecting West Virginia’s coal miners.