Tuesday, August 07, 2007

And All You Conservatives Wonder Why I Don’t Trust “The Private Sector” As Being The Best Way To Handle Everything?!?

Lets examine this recent mine disaster in Utah.

According to a report by Paul Foy of the Associated Press on August 07, 2007, the mine uses a method called "retreat mining," in which pillars of coal are used to hold up an area of the mine's roof. When that area is completely mined, the company pulls the pillar and grabs the useful coal, causing an intentional collapse. Experts say it is one of the most dangerous mining methods.

Robert E. Murray, chairman of Murray Energy Corp. of Cleveland, a part owner of the Crandall Canyon mine said no expense would be spared to save the men. The company had enlisted the help of 200 employees and four rescue crews, and brought in all available equipment from around the state.

*****Yeah, no expense is being spared now, after the fact, when there are probably six dead men who can not benefit from any/all the money and efforts being expended. They probably could have benefitted greatly if the company had made expenditures on safer mining practices. Or, in other words, if the company really cared about their employees’ welfare more than they did about only the “bottom line”, which, I might further note is the only thing they still really care about at this point - saving face and minimizing the financial damage!

The Associated Press report continues:

Government mine inspectors have issued 325 citations against the mine since January 2004, according to a quick analysis of federal Mine Safety and Health Administration online records. Of those, 116 were what the government considered "significant and substantial," meaning they are likely to cause injury.

The 325 safety violations is not unusual, said J. Davitt McAteer, former head of the MHSA and now vice president of Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia.

"It's not perfect but it's certainly not bad," McAteer said. "It would be in the medium range."

In 2007, inspectors have issued 32 citations against the mine, 14 of them considered significant.

Last month, inspectors cited the mine for violating a rule requiring that at least two separate passageways be designated for escape in an emergency.

It was the third time in less than two years that the mine had been cited for the same problem, according to MSHA records. In 2005, MSHA ordered the mine owners to pay $963 for not having escapeways and the 2006 fine for the same problem was just $60.

Overall, the federal government has ordered the mine owner to pay nearly $152,000 in penalties for its 325 violations with many citations having no fines calculated yet. Since January, the mine owner has paid $130,678 in fines, according to MSHA records.

*****Several interesting and shocking things to note here. 325 citations against the mine since January 2004, of which 116 were what the government considered "significant and substantial" and that’s “not perfect but it's certainly not bad" according to J. Davitt McAteer, former head of the MHSA and now vice president of Wheeling Jesuit University (ah, not only pro-business, right-wing political fundamentalist, but an actual christian fundamentalist, to boot! What a surprise!) in West Virginia?!? Hmm, with attitudes like that, it’s a wonder there aren’t more mining (and other types of industrial) disasters! Am I the only one who thinks that the concept of a mine operator getting 325 citations and it seemingly being no big deal is an indication that there are some serious problems that need to be dealt with, not only at that site, but in the industry, in general?!?

Furthermore, look at the fines imposed for these violations of safety standards, both the fines for individual incidents and the aggregate total. $963 for not having escapeways? The mine owner has paid $130,678 in fines? Uh, please tell me, how much profit did that mine generate during that same period? While I don’t know the answer to that question, I’m willing to wager that those fines are a drop in the bucket compared to their profits. So, what deterrent are those fines? What incentive does the mine operator have to do the right thing, as opposed to rollin’ the dice, taking a chance, and, if all works out well, banking the money? Answer? None, and so they continue to choose profits over the safety of their employees. Nice.

This is why people like me bristle when right-wing fundamentalists insist that the private sector can handle everything better, if it were only left to its own devices. Yeah, in this ever more connected and interdependent world that’s exactly what we need to survive and thrive - the dog eat dog mentality of the Capital Darwinists! Yeah, right.

No comments: