Coal Tattoo

Friday roundup, May 14, 2010

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.