Coal Tattoo

Friday roundup, Feb. 19, 2010

TVA Coal Ash

Railroad cars line up at the Arrowhead Landfill at Uniontown, Ala., in this photograph taken Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010. Each day the landfill accepts rail cars filled with tons of coal ash that was spilled during an accident at a Tennessee Valley Authority electricity plant at Kingston, Tenn., in December 2008. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

As controversy continues over the U.S. EPA’s still-unreleased proposed rule to reform coal ash handling and disposal rules, residents of Perry County, Ala., are planning to sue over the disposal of coal-ash from the TVA disaster at a landfill in their community. And at the same time, the Center for Progressive Reform published an interesting piece about the sorts of enforcement actions EPA could already take against coal-ash dumps without even writing any new rules.

apmexicominersMeanwhile this week, the families of some of the 65 coal miners who died four years ago in an explosion at the Pasta deConchos coal mine in Coahuila, Mexico, this week filed suit in U.S. federal court in Arizona, seeking damages from Grupo Mexico Inc. and related companies. According to a press release from the United Steelworkers union:

The miners were trapped underground on Feb. 19, 2006 when a powerful methane explosion rocked the mine in the early morning hours of an overnight shift.

Only two bodies were recovered in the immediate aftermath of the disaster before Grupo Mexico called off the search, infuriating family members unable to bury their dead.

The lawsuit alleges Grupo Mexico and the other corporate defendants failed and refused to take the necessary steps to prevent the disaster even though they were informed of unsafe conditions by the Mexican government and the miners themselves.

And in Colombia, the bodies of three coal miners killed earlier this week were located,  but the recovery operation has been hampered by the concentration of gases in the mine.

Via the San Francisco Examiner, here’s an Associated Press account about coal-mining safety in China:

China’s coal mining industry, the world’s deadliest, has improved dramatically but will need another decade to make more fundamental changes.

SolveClimate had an interesting commentary about “Obama: The Making of a Clean Coal President,” while Yale Environment 360 featured a piece by Scientific American’s David Biello about CCS and the Mountaineer Plant here in West Virginia.

Dow Jones put out this short, but interesting piece about mining in Montana:

The outlook for a coal-mining lease sale by the state of Montana was unclear Monday, after the state received no bids.

The state solicited bids in December for coal leases on 14 parcels of state land in the Otter Creek area of Powder River County. However, no bids were received by a Monday deadline, said Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Sexton.

And, it looks like Virginia lawmakers aren’t going to take up an anti-mountaintop removal bill proposed in that state.

The New York Times reported on a speech in which EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson promised to provide utilities with a “clear road map” for future air pollution rules. You can read the full speech here on EPA’s Web site, and there’s also an interesting Wall Street Journal article about whether EPA will force companies to consider natural gas as an alternative to coal to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Finally, my friend Celeste Monforton at The Pump Handle had some tough words for MSHA’s Joe Main regarding his agency’s new “Rules to Live By” campaign:

An I missing something about why this is a new initiative?  Mine operators are already legally bound to comply with these safety standards and MSHA inspectors are at the nation’s mines several times a year to verify operators are complying with the law.

When I hear the phrase “Rules to Live By,” what comes to mind are tenets that go above and beyond the bear minimum.   But not for MSHA, at least not with this new initiative.  MSHA’s “Rules to Live By” are safety standards employers are already required to meet.  Instead of setting much higher safety expectations for the mining industry, MSHA is fixated on bottom demoninator items like does the truck have a seat belt, do vehicle brakes get checked regularly, and are the wheels on parked vehicles blocked to prevent roll aways.  Enforcing these basic safety standards is nothing more than MSHA has done for the last 30 years.  More of the same will not create the “cultural change” that Mr. Main says he wants.