Coal Tattoo

Monday roundup, Feb. 11, 2013

Central entrance to Vorkuninskaya coal mine in Vorkuta on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. Rescuers have recovered 10 bodies at the Vorkutinskaya mine in Russia’s Komi region. The blast at a coal mine in northern Russia on Monday killed 18 people, officials said Monday. (AP Photo)

Terrible news today out of the coalfields of Russia:

An underground methane gas explosion killed up to 18 miners at a coal pit in northern Russia on Monday and President Vladimir Putin dispatched his disasters minister to the scene to oversee rescue efforts.

Rescue workers said they had brought 10 bodies to the surface at the Vorkutinskaya mine, owned by large Russian steel company Severstal, in the icy Komi region and were trying to recover eight other corpses.

About 250 people had been at the pit at the time of the blast, about 800 meters (2,600 feet) below the surface but most had escaped or been rescued, government officials said.

Much closer to home, Jim Bruggers at the Courier-Journal in Louisville has been tweeting today from a legislative hearing in Kentucky prompted by an issue he previously covered here: A move to weaken the state’s water quality standards for selenium.

Here in West Virginia, our new attorney general is getting more media coverage (from the Gazette and the State Journal) for his renewed promise to fight federal government efforts to reduce the coal industry’s impacts on our water, air, land and climate.  Apparently, the attorney general’s view of federalism somehow includes President Obama giving a state attorney general an “advise and consent” role in who becomes the next administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I’ve posted a copy of Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s letter to the president here.

Regular readers of this blog know that Mr. Morrisey has not really been willing to explain exactly what legal authority he has to do anything about anything EPA does (see here and here), an issue that seems all the more interesting, given that DEP Secretary Randy Huffman has said his agency doesn’t really want or need the attorney general’s help taking on the federal government.

This Aug. 22, 2006 file photo shows a coal mine seen from the air in northeast Wyoming near Gillette, Wyo. A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 that federal review has so far found no evidence mining companies knowingly skirted royalty rules as they’ve increased coal exports to Asia.   (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

Also, outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has now announced that his agency would investigate whether miners and traders shorted taxpayers on coal sales to Asia. As Reuters reported:

“The Department shares your concern that this matter should be taken seriously and be thoroughly investigated to determine if there is any merit to the allegations,” Salazar wrote to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee which had asked officials to examine the trades.