Opinion

Mine operators must not ignore safety regulations

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — West Virginia coal mines, fighting for their lives, had better not be giving the federal government any excuses to crack down on them. Sadly, that seems to be the case, at least in the safety department. During August, Mountain State coal mines were responsible for almost half of the citations and orders handed out by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration – across the country.

Of 132 citations and 12 orders handed down during federal impact inspections in August, 63 citations and 10 orders went to just four West Virginia coal mines. Murray Energy’s Marshall County and Ohio County mines received a combined 39 citations and 10 orders (this on the heels of a mind-boggling 45 citations and two orders in July for those two facilities). ArcelorMittal’s Mine No. 42 in McDowell County received 15 citations, and Coronado Coal Co.’s Pocahontas Mine in Greenbrier County received nine.

Bear in mind, such federal impact inspections were spurred by the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster that killed 29 West Virginia coal miners in 2010. For some mine operators, apparently, no lesson was learned.

There will be arguments about federal overreach, about cutbacks that have been forced by the downturn of the industry (which has been forced by the federal government), and personal accountability on the part of the miners. But there is no excuse for intentionally compromising the safety of the men and women who go to work every day to feed their families and keep the lights on for the rest of us.

Given the pattern of citations seen at a few of these mines, it would be difficult to see the safety practices in place as anything but intentional.

Again, the federal government is, indeed, targeting the coal industry – particularly in Appalachia. One would think the operators of these few problem mines would not be trying so hard to make it easy for them.

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