Coal Tattoo

That’s the new campaign ad launched by Rep. Nick J. Rahall in his re-election bid against Republican Spike Maynard, targeting Maynard’s friendship with Massey Energy President Don Blankenship.

We’ve raised the question before here on Coal Tattoo about Maynard’s e-mail to Blankenship, in which he ridiculed then-candidate and now Justice Menis Ketchum for suggesting Massey could have prevented the deaths of miners Don Bragg and Ellery Hatfield at the company’s Aracoma Mine in January 2006, saying:

This one you gotta see — Aracoma is mentioned — you could have prevented it if you had only operated the mine properly according to Menis.

So far, Maynard has declined to answer a Coal Tattoo question about diversifying the economy in West Virginia’s southern coalfields and has not responded to a request that he disclose other e-mail messages he sent to Blankenship.

We know that Rep. Rahall is a co-sponsor of the mine safety reform legislation that has been working its way through the House since the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster.

What about Maynard?

Well, in his debate a while back with Rep. Rahall, Maynard was asked:

… Would you be in favor of shutting down coal mines that repeatedly violate safety rules.

He responded:

Let me be real clear about this. We need to mine all of the coal that we can mine in Central Appalachia, and especially in West Virginia.  But we need to mine that coal environmentally responsibly, and most importantly, we need to mine it safely.

That’s got to be the first consideration. Frankly, I don’t know anybody in the coal business who wants to mine an unsafe coal mine. That isn’t smart, and it isn’t profitable.

Yes, if you have a coal mine that is being run in an unsafe fashion, I always consider what would I think if my brother, my brother was a coal miner, and what would I think if he working in that mine, so yes, if you have unsafe coal mines, absolutely, if they’re proven to be unsafe and they’re persistently unsafe, you’ve got to shut them down until they fix it, for the safe of the miners who are there.

But then Maynard used the question to go off on EPA and what he calls the Obama administration’s “war on coal”:

I want to say a little bit about mine safety and how we’re doing it today. I want to say one thing about federal agencies. Mr. Rahall says you don’t bad-mouth federal agencies, well, I’m going to bad mouth … I have to bad-mouth the EPA. These people are cruel …

But at another spot in the debate, Maynard offered more specifics on his views about how coal-mining should be regulated:

… I think the state of West Virginia should regulate the coal industry … we are very capable of governing ourselves, of running our own affairs, and there is no reason that West Virginia agencies cannot monitor the safety in coal mines, cannot monitor the cleanness of our water, the cleanness of our air … we have agencies in place to do that and they’ve done a great job over many, many years.