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Clean Coal; Bloody Hands

By       Message Betsy L. Angert     Permalink
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Mine Explosion Survivor Interview

copyright 2010 Betsy L. Angert.

Citizens heard the news. In West Virginia, twenty-five people perished. Hard-working miners left their homes and loved ones, never to return again. Upper Big Branch, a colliery owned and operated by the Massey Energy Company exploded from within. The cavern, filled with gas, was often thought to be a death trap. Family, friends, and familiars knew this, as did government officials. Actually, any American who cares to be cognizant of the countless considerations associated with coal mining could have predicted what occurred only days ago. Yet, most choose not to think of their own culpability in the most recent deaths. Nor do our countrymen and women contemplate the constant infirmity and harm they do to our fellow humans. We are busy.

Nonetheless, that does not negate that we have blood on our hands. Every person who resides in this country is partially responsible for this blast and the loss of bodies who will forever lie still. We, the people, love our luxuries and all the energy these consume. We allow ourselves to be appeased, and say nothing of our dependence on coal. We only wish to free ourselves from foreign fossil fuels. Hence, we declare, coal is clean.

Indeed, it is a dirty black rock and does many dastardly deeds when mined and burned. We cannot wash our hands of the climate we change when we cut mountaintops and strip the land. Our intentional use of coal causes injury and illness. Intellectually we know this; yet, we think ourselves innocent. In truth, the American people cannot absolve themselves; the many tragedies we accept, over and over again. The supposed accidents are what we create!

Mine Operator Escaped Added Oversight After Warning, By Michael Cooper and Ian Urbina. The New York Times. April 8, 2010

The operator of the West Virginia mine that exploded on Monday, killing at least 25 people, was warned by federal officials just over two years ago that it could be cited for having a "pattern of violations," which would have allowed far stricter federal oversight of the mine. But the mine escaped the stepped-up enforcement even though it continued to amass violations, federal records show.

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Why, after such a long history of injury and death, does coal mining remain so dangerous?

The mine, known as the Upper Big Branch and operated by the Massey Energy Company, was warned that it had a "potential pattern of violations" in a Dec. 6, 2007 letter from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The letter noted that the mine had received 204 violations that were deemed serious and significant over the previous two years, well above average.

But six months later, the safety agency announced that the Upper Big Branch mine, and 19 others that were warned that December, had all instituted plans to fix their problems, and had received fewer violations. They all escaped the added oversight, which would have allowed the federal government to close down the mines every time they found a significant violation.

Sources of Energy and Explosive Truisms . . .

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