Friday, April 9th, 2010
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How Preventable Was the West Virginia Mine Disaster?

THE VERY SHORT ARM OF THE LAWThe West Virginia mine that blew up and killed 25 people racked up some impressive safety violations but escaped better oversight because of a year's worth of improvement… followed by another year's worth of disimprovement. When you read the letter (provided by the Times) that was sent by the Mine Health and Safety Administration-well, I guess "try" to read is more apt? Because it's completely unreadable to anyone not versed in the industry. It reads as the worst sort of legalese, piling up language from regulation after regulation. I mean, it has footnotes? And also, not to be a weird Libertarian, but any highly-regulated industry (such as aviation) or even a moderately regulated one (like food services), well, pretty much anyone is going to rack up violations on the letter of the law. This, however, does not sound like just issues with "the letter of the law": "Newly released federal inspection records show that the mine had recently been given warnings for accumulation of flammable coal dust and ventilation problems." So what if the agency had stepped in with a closing order based on those warnings-and why didn't they?

5 Comments / Post A Comment

KarenUhOh (#19)

Easy to tell this was a well-written legal letter, because my eyes glazed over by the third paragraph.

Federal "regulation" that so many get overheated about is a quicksand that traps only the most beastly violators. There are so many out clauses in this thing that it would take pure fools to fail.

You wonder, when you board a plane, or bite a burger–or go to your office two hundred feet underground–whether anyone has your best interests at heart. If you're the latter, you say,"Well, at least I have a job, here in this Godforsaken country, so I can thank the Coal Industry for looking out for me."

Moff (#28)

Yeah, I was much happier back when I still, in my blissful ignorance, thought someone was really in charge.

kneetoe (#1,881)

By law, mining regulations only have to be clear as mud.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

I'd like to think that I could be as brave as the rescue teams that go in after the trapped workers, but I guess I'll never know for sure, because the terms of my probation require me to stay 50 feet away from miners.

rttx (#4,367)

If the media has its way, the regulators' and companies' heads are going to be on a stick and the government is going to regulate the hell out of this industry: http://bit.ly/c1OOxe

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