Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Aracoma Report Not Coming Out After All

Churning out the work, the state of West Virginia yesterday announced it would issue its report on the Aracoma mine fire tomorrow. But I just got an e-mail -- it's off.

The accident killed two on January 19 and attracted national attention because it happened so soon after the Sago explosion. Preliminary information was that the fire started near a longwall conveyor belt drive. Miners Don Bragg and Ellery ("Elvis") Hatfield became separated from their group in heavy smoke during the evacuaton. Mine rescue teams recovered them on January 21.

According to the Charleston Daily Mail, a Republican politician immediately slammed the report's release prior to Election Day as "politically motivated."

"Anyone that doesn't see through that has a blindfold on," [Senate Minority Leader Vic] Sprouse said.

Massey Energy, which owns the Aracoma Mine, is headed by Don Blankenship, who has spent

$1,033,799 on "electioneering communications" between Sept. 11 and Oct. 27

the Daily Mail recently reported.

The Herald-Dispatch recently ran an in-depth appraisal of Mr. Blankenship's unusual role in state politics:

Among the unusual facets:

Pam Carden, a GOP contender for a 15th District seat in the House, has received no money from Blankenship, but has been listed as a candidate he supports in mailings, billboards and television ads -- support that has neither been solicited nor appreciated.

"I have a campaign manager, and he's pulling his hair out," she said.

And West Virginia University's Daily Athenium has more:

Blankenship's campaign works in West Virginia but might not be legal in other states, said West Virginia University political science professor Neil Berch.

"For example, I don't think he could do this in Maine, where they have limits not just on independent spending but on direct campaign contributions. There are a lot of states where if a certain amount is spent against you then you get some public funding," Berch said.

Further from the latest Daily Mail story:

"The coordination between government officials and incumbent politicians running for office next Tuesday is very apparent," Blankenship said. "The behavior of the state officials and the politicians threaten all businessmen and every West Virginian's freedom of speech."

Prs. Bush as we know, lately recess-appointed Richard Stickler, whose career included a stint at Massey Energy, to head the federal mine-safety agency, despite his being twice rejected by the Senate. (See yesteday's post.)

Critics would have it that the Aracoma families should feel angry at the state for scheduling release of the Aracoma investigation report at this time. Some of us -- though I would not think of claiming to speak on behalf of the families -- are mainly just interested in finding out the results of the investigation, peferably as soon as may be.

The Daily Mail article noted, however, that the state admitted skirting a 5-day notice requirement for public meetings. The reason given was that tomorrow was the most convenient day for the Governor to meet with the families in order to present the report before it goes out to the public.


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