Coal Tattoo

What about the war on coal miners?

We continue to hear an awful lot about the Obama administration’s supposed “war on coal,” with op-eds coming out now and again by various local business boosters, repeating the same rhetoric over and over.

What I keep wondering is when are any of these big defenders of coal miners going to start defending coal miners’ health and safety, and not just their right to have a job that threatens to put them into an early grave. Once again this week, it took a congressman from California to stand up in the House chamber and call for passage of mine safety reform legislation, and to question whether Alpha Natural Resources is headed on such issues.

It reminded me of a recent post from our friend Celeste Monforton over at The Pump Handle blog, about efforts in Congress to stop the Obama administration from trying to end black lung disease:

It’s too late for Ronald Martin of Dema, Kentucky. “I’m in last stage of black lung,” he wrote in shaky script, “please help the miners so they won’t suffer like I suffer. I can’t breathe but a little.” Mr. Martin sent his note to the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to comment on the agency’s proposed rule to reduce workers’ exposure to respirable coal mine dust—the dust that damaged his lungs so severely. Other coal miners also sent their comments to MSHA, urging the agency to put a more protective regulation in place as soon as possible to prevent younger miners from developing black lung disease.

The major US coal mining companies, in contrast, strongly object to MSHA’s proposed rule. In their written comments and public testimony they use all the stale, typical terms to criticize the rule, saying it’s flawed, counterproductive, arbitrary, and irrational. They tell MSHA to withdraw the proposal, but still insist they have miners’ interests in mind and are dedicated to providing safe working conditions.

Celeste singled out the industry’s supposed push for use of personal dust monitors:

The coal industry’s hypocrisy is especially apparent when it comes to the proposal’s provisions concerning a specially-designed continuous respirable dust monitor. This 6-pound device can be worn by a mine worker to provide him with a continuous readout of his cumulative average exposure to respirable coal dust. Development of the device dates back at least 30 years, and coal mine operators have insisted in nearly as many years that any new regulation had to incorporate this technology. That was their story and they were sticking with it.

But wait:

Now that the device is proven reliable, accurate and mine worthy—-and more than 270 have been sold commercially—-the mining industry is fighting MSHA’s plan to incorporate them in its regulation. Murray Energy’s Robert Murray said the devices are “unproven, unreliable, subject to tampering, and fail to protect miners.” Anthony Bumbico of Arch Coal raised a number of objections to the devices, called continuous personal dust monitors (CPDM), saying

“it is not ready to be deployed for compliance purposes. Nor is it ready for daily exposure to the rugged working conditions present in underground coal mines.”

Mr. Bumbico’s plan is really bold:

“…to work together to develop the next generation of the CPDM.”

Read the whole post here.