President Obama delivered some remarks this morning on the West Virginia coal mine disaster and about mine safety in general, and I was pleased to see that he didn't refrain from calling out the culprits by name:
Stronger mine safety laws were passed in 2006 after the Sago mine disaster. But safety violators like Massey have still been able to find ways to put their bottom line before the safety of their workers -- filing endless appeals instead of paying fines and fixing safety problems.
A bit later on in his statement, he managed to drop their name yet again:
The safety record at the Massey Upper Big Branch mine was troubling. And it's clear that while there are many responsible companies, far too many mines aren't doing enough to protect their workers' safety.
And then my favorite part:
But we do know that this tragedy was triggered by a failure at the Upper Big Branch mine -- a failure first and foremost of management, but also a failure of oversight and a failure of laws so riddled with loopholes that they allow unsafe conditions to continue.
I found the last quote especially satisfying, given the odious nature of Masseys' CEO Don Blankenship, a tea party contributor and all-around asshole:
He donates huge amounts to conservative causes, has funded a good chunk of the Tea Party movement in West Virginia, famously spent over $3 million to get a friendly judge elected to the state Supreme Court, and donated another $3 million in an attempt to fund a Republican takeover of the state legislature. Blankenship regularly engages in calling Democratic leaders "the crazies" and has said that any move to regulate pollution is the first step toward communism. Grist named Blankenship the "scariest polluter" in the country.
(Thanks to Devilstower, from whose diary I quoted the above.)
I only regret that Obama didn't use Blankenship's name. Oh, but here he talks about him yet again:
So today I've directed Secretary Solis, Assistant Secretary Main, and Administrator Stricklin to work closely with state mining officials to press ahead with this investigation -- so we can help make sure a disaster like this never happens again. Owners responsible for conditions in the Upper Big Branch mine should be held accountable for decisions they made and preventive measures they failed to take. And I've asked Secretary Solis to work with the Justice Department to ensure that every tool in the federal government is available in this investigation.
What other steps is President Obama taking to address the problem?
And to help hold companies accountable, I've also asked Secretary Solis to streamline the rules for proving that a mining company has committed a pattern of violations -- so that we can empower the mine safety agency to take essential steps to keep miners safe. If a mining company consistently violates safety standards, they should be subjected to the tougher enforcement that comes with being placed on an updated Pattern of Violations list.
Personally, I think one of the best steps that could be taken to improve mine safety is to unionize them. But in the meantime, it's encouraging to see the administration taking positive steps toward hopefully making mines safer places to work.
The President's full remarks are here.
And here's the video from the White House website:
Added: H/T to marigold for Massey's response:
Today’s statements by the White House about the Upper Big Branch tragedy are regrettable. We fear that the President has been misinformed about our record and the mining industry in general.
I hope their "fear" is justified, and that they soon have much more to "regret".