Coal Tattoo

More about the politics of the Ky. coal accident

Kentucky Mine Accident

Gov. Steve Beshear, right, and Carl Boone, left, of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, answer questions at a news conference Thursday, April 29, 2010, in Providence, Ky. (AP Photo/Daniel R. Patmore)

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear is on the scene in Western Kentucky now, as one miner is confirmed dead and another still unaccounted for, in another mine accident that shocks the senses — coming as it does just 24 days after Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine blew up here in West Virginia, killing 29 workers.

But it wasn’t but a few months ago that Beshear joined the owner of the Dotiki Mine, Steve Craft of Alliance Resource Partners, (along with U.K. basketball coach John Calipari) for the opening of a new mine

“In this economy, we see a lot of industries grinding to a halt,” Beshear said. “But we also see miners continuing to dig so that our homes can be heated and we can cook and we can walk over to a light switch and turn on the lights.”

“It’s not just the energy,” he said. “It’s the national security. We can no longer afford to be dependent on other countries, most of whom hate our guts.”

Beshear added that progress is being made to reduce pollution from coal, such as through emissions controls and the prospects for turning coal into other fuels such as substitute natural gas and diesel fuel.

“We’re working hard to develop clean coal technology,” the governor said. “There is no reason we cannot be good stewards of the environment and be top producers of energy in the country.”

No mention there of coal-mine safety, or the fact that at least nine people have died in the last five years alone because of mine safety violations at Alliance operations. (No mention, either, by the way, that one of Alliance’s top safety officials, Kevin Vaughn, serves on Kentucky’s  Mining Board).

And it’s also worth going back and taking a look at the news coverage, such as this piece by John Cheves of the Herald-Leader, about Beshear firing the former head of Kentucky’s mining permit agency who was tangling with Alliance:

Ron Mills said he refused to issue about a half-dozen mine permits requested over the past year, chiefly by the politically connected Alliance Resource Partners of Tulsa, Okla., because they did not comply with federal and state mining law.

The story added:

In recent years, Alliance executives and employees have given several hundred thousand dollars in political donations on the state and national levels, including $70,000 to the Kentucky Democratic Party. Last month, Beshear named Raymond Ashcraft, Alliance’s Kentucky manager of environmental affairs and permitting, to the Kentucky Geological Survey Advisory Board.