How Preventable Was the West Virginia Mine Disaster?


The 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?