Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lesson on Blogging

OK, so I take a few days off at the holidays. On returning, there are more than 100 news stories piled up related to mines and mine safety. I tell myself I'll "catch up" the blog when I get past the next deadline on my paying job. By then, there are almost 200 stories piled up. Next thing, it's more than a month since anything new went up. Lesson: if it's missed, then it's missed.

Taking up from today:

Pressure for stronger mine safety legislation in the wake of last winter is by no means at an end.

Appalachian News-Express:

HAZARD - Democratic lawmakers were joined yesterday by widows of miners, mine safety advocates and union representatives to support the passage of new mine safety legislation.

“Somebody has got to stand up for the rights of the miners,” said Shelbiana miner Gary Conway, who was fired from his job at Misty Mountain Coal after voicing concerns about safety in the underground mine.

The legislation, recently introduced in the House by Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, calls for more mine inspections, additional safety measures and would allow the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing to initiate disciplinary proceedings against mine foremen for violations of federal, as well as state, mine safety laws.

Supporters say the legislation is desperately needed in the industry and long overdue. “None of these provisions are radical,” said advocate Tony Oppegard. “Most are common sense solutions.”

And the Herald-Leader:

HAZARD - Claudia Cole's husband died in an underground roof collapse. Stella Morris' husband bled to death without receiving first aid. Melissa Lee and Tilda Thomas both lost their husbands to an underground mine explosion.

State Democratic lawmakers yesterday met with these and other widows, coal miners, safety advocates and union officials in Eastern Kentucky's coalfields to back newly introduced legislation that they say will prevent similar mine fatalities.
"We've got to make sure miners are safe in Kentucky's mines," said House Speaker Jody Richards, of Bowling Green, who was joined by Reps. Brent Yonts of Greenville and Leslie Combs of Pikeville.

The mine safety bill, sponsored by Yonts, would double the number of mine inspections, require all underground miners to carry a methane detector and beef up onsite emergency personnel, among other things.

The Courier-Journal editorialized:

Detractors have argued for decades that the state mine safety program isn't as rigorous as its federal counterpart.

Why? Because, the theory goes, state regulation is more vulnerable to all the Frankfort politicians who get campaign cash from coal operators and their allies...

It that true? The paper earlier reported finding

seven times more federal than state citations per inspection.

raising some questions about the state program's effectiveness, obviously.

I would like to comment on the state accident investigation reports, since I report on these things regularly in my real job. I think it is well worth while to have the state doing its own independent investigations in addition to MSHA. This provides a cross-check, not only to keep everyone honest, but also comparing the reports often fills in gaps and creates a more complete picture of what happened, two eyes provide 3-D vision. I think that sometimes the state's report is better and sometimes MSHA's. Sometimes when one agency skates over an issue in an investigation, the other will nail it. Whatever happens with the state agency, I hope the investigative program will be preserved.

International news:

We have in China, an update on a case where a coal mine operator had a pair of journalists murdered for asking too many questions. There is now a suggestion (no way to evaluate) that this was more of a shakedown operation than a news gathering effort. Whichever it was, corrupt practices in the mining industry were the root cause of this incident.

And here is a link to a blogger in India who has posted a lengthy indictment of the coal mine safety system there. Illegal mining is one of the problems described. I suggest readers take a look and evaluate this piece for themselves.


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