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Big Coal update

April 8, 2010

Featured Article

With the news today by the Associated Press of citations issued at the Upper Big Branch mine the very day of the explosion that killed 25 men on Monday, and that some miners were so worried about safety they contacted their Congressmen, the following editorial is ever more pertinent. As the AP story notes: “Trouble had been building at Upper Big Branch for a long time. Violations in 2009 were roughly double the amount from any previous year, and the January citation involving Moore was one of at least 50 “unwarrantable failure” violations assessed there in the past year, the most serious type of violation that MSHA can assess.”

Denise Giardinia writes in a New York Times op-ed on Wednesday:

It seems we can’t escape our heritage. I grew up in a coal camp in the southern part of the state. Every day my school bus drove past a sign posted by the local coal company keeping tally, like a basketball scoreboard, of “man hours” lost to accidents. From time to time classmates whose fathers had been killed or maimed would disappear, their families gone elsewhere to seek work.

We knew then, and know now, that we are a national sacrifice area. We mine coal despite the danger to miners, the damage to the environment and the monomaniacal control of an industry that keeps economic diversity from flourishing here. We do it because America says it needs the coal we provide.

West Virginians get little thanks in return. Our miners have historically received little protection, and our politicians remain subservient to Big Coal. Meanwhile, West Virginia is either ignored by the rest of the nation or is the butt of jokes about ignorant hillbillies

Here in West Virginia we will forget our fleeting dream of basketball glory and get about the business of mourning. It is, after all, something we do very well. In the area around the Upper Big Branch, families of the dead will gather in churches and their neighbors will come to pray with them. They will go home, and the same neighbors will show up bearing platters of fried chicken and potato salad and cakes. The funeral homes will be jammed, the mourners in their best suits and ties and Sunday dresses.

And perhaps this time President Obama and Americans will pay attention, and notice West Virginia at last.

Read the whole thing here.

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