Friday roundup, May 14, 2010

May 14, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

Relatives and miners carry a coffin with their colleague killed after explosions at the Raspadskaya mine in the city of Mezhdurechensk in the west Siberian region of Kemerovo, Thursday, May 13, 2010.  (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)

Mass safety inspections of all Russian coal mines were ordered this week, in the wake of two explosions at a Siberian mine that killed at least 66 workers and left 24 others still missing.

The search for the missing is apparently off for at least a week because of fears of more blasts.  Parts of the Raspadskaya mine are going to be flooded to try to force out methane accumulations.

Emergency workers rest during a break in searching at the Raspadskaya mine after it was hit by explosions, in the city of Mezhdurechensk in the west Siberian region of Kemerovo, Thursday, May 13, 2010. Rescue operations to find 24 workers missing in a Siberian coal mine explosion were suspended Thursday because of fears of a new blast. The Russian Emergencies Ministry said Thursday that the death toll from the explosions now stands at 66. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)

In this photo released by China’s Xinhua news agency, a firefighter watches rescuers removing the body of a victim in a coal mine accident at Yuanyang Colliery in Puding County, Anshun City of southwest China’s Guizhou Province, Friday, May 14, 2010. The official Xinhua News Agency said Friday that 31 workers were in the mine when the blast happened Thursday night, and that 10 managed to escape. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Ou Dongqu)

And if the news out of Russia wasn’t bad enough, 21 coal miners were killed Thursday night in another mine explosion in China.

Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., right, and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., at a news conference, with industry leaders, announcing their climate change bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 12, 2010.(AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

Here at home, the big story this week was the introduction of the Kerry-Lieberman climate and energy bill.  I tried to get reactions from West Virginia Sens. Byrd and Rockefeller, but neither would comment on the legislation yet.

Some of the interesting commentary thus far: A piece from Andrew Revkin on his Dot Earth blog, and several posts (here and here) from Joe Romm and his Climate Progress blog.

The consensus seems to be that, politically, this bill is in a “tough spot.”  But the science seems to point any policymakers who will listen in another direction — see here, here, here and here, all from Joe Romm.

Catching up on some PATH power line news, thanks to Bill Howley’s Power Line blog, the power companies are trying to further delay the West Virginia Public Service Commission case, while the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement on the project is in the planning stages.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Plain Dealer had an interesting story headlined, “Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland’s administration to raid black lung fund, use money for oversight of coal mines.”  The story reports:

Gov. Ted Strickland’s administration wants $2.28 million from a health-care fund for coal miners stricken with black lung disease to pay for regulatory programs to oversee new coal mines.

The raid on the $191 million state black lung fund must happen by July because Ohio’s powerful coal companies got lawmakers to remove an 8-cents-per-ton coal extraction tax in the last state budget.

The new provision — which the Ohio Coal Association brought to Strickland administration officials — will be slipped into an unrelated coal bill expected to be voted out of the House’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee this morning. The language will tweak current law, which requires the money be spent on health care or on the state’s mine safety program, to allow officials to shift the $2.28 million into the state’s coal regulatory program.

While the United Mine Workers held some protests against Massey up in Pittsburgh this week, things on that front should really heat up next week — A variety of different protests are planned around Massey’s annual meeting on Tuesday morning in Richmond, which will also feature some institutional shareholders urging votes against top company directors.

Then on Tuesday night, there’s the big EPA public hearing here in Charleston about the Spruce Mine.  And on Thursday, Massey CEO Don Blankenship and UMWA President Cecil Roberts will face off in a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in Washington …  should be quite a week.

2 Responses to “Friday roundup, May 14, 2010”

  1. rhmooney3 says:

    This says it all.

    Editorial: Capitulating to coal
    The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that proposed legislation would raid a health-care fund that helps miners afflicted by black-lung disease. The measure would hijack $2.28 million held in escrow for black-lung victims to cover costs of inspecting and issuing permits for new and expanded coal mines.

    Such inspections used to be paid for out of an 8-cents-a-ton tax on coal extraction. But the coal lobby got its statehouse buddies to remove that tax from the last state budget.

    That favor has created a $1.8 million hole in the current budget. To close that gap and pay for other regulatory programs, the Ohio Coal Association proposed tapping the miners’ fund.

    This transfer will be for one time only, politicians and lobbyists vow. Where have you heard that before?

    Critics of the shift say language in current law has been tweaked in a way that could permit further transfers of money that was previously required to be spent on miners’ health care or on mine safety.
    In the aftermath of the recent coal-mine disaster in West Virginia, Ohio needs to spend more, not less, on ensuring the safety and health of miners. But advocates of these interests can’t compete with the influence exerted by some of the biggest contributors to state political campaigns.

    It’s a shameful situation. Governor Strickland and lawmakers need to correct, not compound, their previous special-interest giveaway.

  2. clay ton says:

    Police arrest 28 as coal miners’ protest in Siberia escalates
    “The roughly 200 protesters are demanding better working conditions after last weekend’s tragedy…Ivan Mokhnachuk, head of Russia’s independent coal miners union, told Russian broadcaster Echo of Moscow on Saturday. “When people are kept in the dark, when their questions are not answered, when they are left alone, when every day there are dozens of funerals and the authorities do not want to talk, a situation arises where people are displeased…”It is the fault of the authorities that they pushed people onto the rails (to stop coal trains)”…Prior to the fall of the Soviet Union miners were once a powerful group in Russia, over a half million miners pulled a series of wildcat strikes in that brought down the central government of Russia two times. Under the iron grip of Putin it might be bloody to get needed changes.,,5577487,00.html

    People outside of the ‘coal communities’ around the world never give a second thought to those who toil in the coal extraction business nor those who live nearby such operations. Same goes for the oil business. The ongoing ecological disaster in the Gulf is making folks in that vicinity pay attention because of the ominous prospects for their fishing and tourism industries. People who live along Dunkard Creek where Consol continues discharging polluted water from its Blacksville No. 2 mine can tell you how the State of West Virginia continues to allow the destruction of 161 species of fish, mussels, salamanders, crayfish and aquatic insects. If it kills the aquatic life human beings are next; ya think?

    Because of our fundamental ‘human nature’ there may be no saving our species. The ongoing (almost weekly) coal mine explosions prove that in spite of available coal mine methane management technology ‘those in charge’ are unwilling to extend a helping hand to those who must risk their lives to bring modernity (power and steel) to the masses. As witnessed last week in Ohio, the Republicans in the state government would not even give 8 cents a ton towards mine safety oversight, shame on them and their lot. Meanwhile few people in Ohio even consider this news.

    People are hungry, they must support their families and they take whatever work they can find. This being the case employers take advantage of the workers vulnerability and ineffectual governments, which are all controlled by the wealthy and apathy. Providing human dignity to the lives of those who have no voice is a non-starter. There has not been one national protest in the USA regarding the explosion at UBB on 4/5/10, or the BP/Transocean/Halliburton Gulf of Mexico disaster of 4/20/10. People are oblivious, could care less and are powerless about events that diminish the very quality of their lives. The prospects are not good.

    There for the Grace of God go I is not a 21st century idiom, but what goes around comes around is still the rule on earth.

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