Coal Tattoo


We’ve posted online a long story I did for tomorrow morning’s Sunday Gazette-Mail. It examines the narrative that’s developed over the last three weeks that the nation’s mine safety problems are mostly about one renegade company and the backlog of industry appeals MSHA says is making its job of stepped up enforcement tough.

The story is online here.

It’s worth noting that the Labor Department’s preliminary report to President Obama mentioned a variety of other issues — such as giving more powers to MSHA, toughening criminal penalties for mine safety violations, and empowering miners to have a greater say in workplace protections.

As President Obama said in his Rose Garden remarks on mine safety:

… This isn’t just about a single mine. It’s about all of our mines. The safety record at the Massey Upper Big Branch mine was troubling. And it’s clear that while there are many responsible companies, far too many mines aren’t doing enough to protect their workers’ safety.

I think we all understand that underground coal mining is, by its very nature, dangerous. Every miner and every mining family understands this. But we know what can cause mine explosions, and we know how to prevent them. I refuse to accept any number of miner deaths as simply a cost of doing business. We can’t eliminate chance completely from mining any more than we can from life itself. But if a tragedy can be prevented, it must be prevented. That’s the responsibility of mine operators. That’s the responsibility of government. And that is the responsibility that we’re all going to have to work together to meet in the weeks and months to come.