Confronted with great tragedy, most people would struggle mightily to save those still in danger, mourn those who are lost, and search for answers so that this horror will not be repeated. Most people are not the Bush administration. With the fate of six miners still unknown beneath a Utah mountain, the Bush administration has decided the best way to honor the men who went missing and the rescuers who lost their lives trying to save them is to reward mine operators who have dodged both environmental and safety laws for decades.
The Bush administration is set to issue a regulation on Friday that would enshrine the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal. The technique involves blasting off the tops of mountains and dumping the rubble into valleys and streams.
It has been used in Appalachian coal country for 20 years under a cloud of legal and regulatory confusion.
"Under a cloud" is a nice way of saying that mountaintop removal is clearly outlawed by the Stream Buffer Zone Rule of 1983. For more than twenty years, courts friendly to (and in all too many cases, bought and paid for by) mine operators have refused to enforce this regulation. Under the new rules, mine operators wouldn't have to worry that an inspector or judge might locate their balls. Filling in valleys, killing streams, and choking valleys will be perfectly fine.
Just as neocons shouted their huzzahs when 9/11 gave them an excuse to enact their bloody fantasies across the Middle East, the Bush administration is celebrating the death of miners as a reason to give the gift of absolute environmental destruction.
The regulation is the culmination of six and a half years of work by the administration to make it easier for mining companies to dig more coal to meet growing energy demands and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
I've no doubt that this rule is the result of much plotting and planning on the part of the administration, but it is a means to in any way reduce the dependence on foreign oil (and the New York Times should know better than to say such a thing, damn it). We do not burn coal in cars. We do not burn oil in power plants. The two fuels operate in completely different markets. Mine every ounce of coal in the country, and it won't reduce our need for foreign oil .
This is the most blatant, vulgar, ugly, foul, crass, and disgusting piece of misdirection to come from this administration since the invasion of Iraq. They are the ones to thwart every real effort to reduce the demand for oil. They are the ones who put such a feckless crony in charge of mine safety that he couldn't even gain the support of Senate Republicans and had to be installed by recess appointment. They are the ones who reduced fines and enforcement at MSHA. They are the ones who supported bad mine operators and turned a blind eye to thousands of safety violations by the same man who operated the mine in Utah and allowed the practices that led to the collapse.
The Bush administration is offering up the broken bodies of men who died in no small part through their own actions, as cause for enabling still greater tragedy. They are using the blood of miners to blind the nation to misdeeds both by operators and MSHA, and to expand a form of mining that leads to disaster and death even for those not involved in mining.
The Buffalo Creek Flood was an incident that occurred on February 26, 1972 when a coal slurry impoundment dam built on a hillside in Logan County, West Virginia by the Pittston Coal Company burst four days after having been declared 'satisfactory' by a federal mine inspector. The resulting flood unleashed approximately 132 million gallons of black waste water upon the residents of 16 coal mining communities in Buffalo Creek Hollow. Out of a population of 5,000 people, 125 people were killed, 1,121 were injured, and over 4,000 were left homeless.
That's the kind of "safety improvements" that will be brought by expanding mountaintop removal.
Most people facing tragedy would think first of how they might help. The Bush administration has shown they think only of how they and their friends might profit.
It's not often that I ask something of those kind enough to read my words, but then it's not often I'm this shocked and angry. So I'm asking more of you tonight.
I'm asking that you call the Office of Surface Mining [(202) 208-2565] to let them know this issue will not pass without a fight.
I'm asking that you call your Representatives and Senators so that they return from their vacation knowing how you feel about this issue.
I'm asking that you write your local papers to voice your opinion, and to New York Times reporter, John Broder both to thank him for writing about this issue and to remind him that more coal doesn't mean less oil.
I'm asking that you visit the sites of Mountain Summer Justice, I Love Mountains, the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, United Mountain Defense, Coal River Mountain Watch, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth or any of the other groups involved in this issue to educate yourself and seek more opportunities to help.
Finally, I'd like to ask that you read some of the diaries already posted on this subject, including one by betson08 that has some graphic examples of the effects of mountaintop removal. This past diary, one of many by faithfull, is a great introduction to the subject.
Please. Don't let them use fallen men as an excuse to fell whole mountains.
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