Posted by: jmtoriel | April 6, 2010

I’m always sorry to hear of the loss of lives in the extraction of coal no matter where in the world it takes place. It is a sad reminder of the dangers of extracting this dirty fossil fuel for the luxury of switching on the lights in many jurisdictions. It brings into question the validity of the industry given the current global and local realities which should not be overlooked.

The regulations in West Virginia are atrocious and fall below the US federal standards. This company has blood on its hands for continuously lagging in safety and it is inexcusable. At the time of Monday’s explosion, the mine was facing more than $150,000 US in fines for pending safety violation charges. In 2006, Massey Energy was fined $1.5 million for 25 violations that inspectors concluded contributed to the deaths of two miners who were trapped in a fire in another West Virginia mine owned by the company.

This adds to the fury of degradation to the environment (like the coal shipment from Australia, the world’s leading coal exporter, that ran aground for undoubtedly taking a shortcut in the Great Barrier Reef yesterday en route to China) — especially given the realities of climate change and the level of emissions that spew from this source over any other. While this accident is tragic, the harm caused by the burning of coal around the world is proving to be far more threatening to our planetary coral reef biospheres.

Coal is a dangerous and dirty extraction process and is getting increasingly difficult as mines are deeper and harder to reach. A staggering amount of jobs have been wiped out in the coal industry in recent decades without any climate legislation in place. Joe Romm, of the Center for American Progress said in NYT: “West Virginia coal production peaked years ago. We’re not making any more coal, and so anybody interested in the future of West Virginia and jobs in West Virginia has to be looking past coal.” The central Appalachia region could generate a total of 52,000 new jobs in the renewable energy manufacturing sectors for wind, solar, and biomass, according to a recently published Downsteams study.

So the question lies, why do we continue to forgo regulations for worker’s safety and the planet’s health for a 19th century resource and technology that is obviously causing more devastation and harm?

It seems clear to me that “because it’s cheap” is not a good enough answer.


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