The Sago Mine Explosion

Ken AshfordBush & Co.Leave a Comment

Well, it doesn’t look good for the 13 miners, according to the latest stories.

Whether they survive or not, it’ll take months — maybe years — to determine what caused the mine mishap and whether it could have been prevented.

But right now, one wonders if this could have been avoided.  Scott Shields finds an interesting article from the New York Times (August 9, 2004):

In 1997, as a top executive of a Utah mining company, David Lauriski proposed a measure that could allow some operators to let coal-dust levels rise substantially in mines. The plan went nowhere in the government.

Last year, it found enthusiastic backing from one government official – Mr. Lauriski himself. Now head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, he revived the proposal despite objections by union officials and health experts that it could put miners at greater risk of black-lung disease….

Safety and environmental regulations often shift with control of the White House, but the Bush administration’s approach to coal mining has been a particularly potent example of the blend of politics and policy.

In addition to Mr. Lauriski, who spent 30 years in the coal industry, Mr. Bush tapped a handful of other industry executives and lobbyists to help oversee safety and environmental regulations.

In all, the mine safety agency has rescinded more than a half-dozen proposals intended to make coal miners’ jobs safer, including steps to limit miners’ exposure to toxic chemicals. One rule pushed by the agency would make it easier for companies to use diesel generators underground, which miners say could increase the risk of fire.

In an interview, Mr. Lauriski said that the proposals that were canceled were unnecessary. He said the agency had instead concentrated on other measures "we believed were important to pursue."…

The clock is now ticking to the moment when Bush says, "You’re doing a heckuva job, Lauriski".